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Obama Tries To Rally Women Voters As Midterms Near


It's Halloween, and it's the final weekend before the midterm elections. And President Obama is marking both. He started with some trick-or-treating for women's votes, campaigning alongside the female candidate for governor in Rhode Island. And he argued for economic policies he says would help women in the workplace. NPR's Scott Horsley has more.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: President Obama is spending part of this evening passing out candy to children at the White House. Earlier, he indulged his own sweet tooth, ordering what he called a devilish chocolate cake at Gregg's restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Death by chocolate. That's kind of - that's kind of scary.


OBAMA: I'm a little intimidated.

HORSLEY: Obama was joined for lunch at the restaurant by Gina Raimondo, the Democrat running for governor in Rhode Island. He also posed for pictures with some costumed customers of the restaurant, including one group dressed as the Flintstones. It's not the Stone Age, but Obama used another anachronistic TV show to illustrate the conditions he says many women face in the workplace.


OBAMA: "Madmen" is a good show, but that's not who we want making decisions about our workplaces these days. When women succeed, America succeeds. And we need leaders who understand that.


HORSLEY: Women now account for nearly half the American workforce. And in a growing number of families, they are the chief breadwinners. But Obama says government policies haven't caught up to that reality. He says the U.S. needs better childcare, more paid family leave and laws promoting pay equity between women and their male coworkers.


OBAMA: This is not just a nice thing to do, it's good policy. It's good for business. It's good for the economy.


HORSLEY: And if that message rallies women voters, it could also be good for Democrats in Tuesday's midterm elections. Women typically lean Democratic at the polls, which can be a big advantage for the party, since women tend to vote in larger numbers than men do. Obama's own reelection campaign two years ago benefited from an 11-point lead with women. But Dianne Bystrom, who heads the Catt Center for Women in Politics at Iowa State University, says enthusiasm typically suffers in the midterm elections, so Democrats can't necessarily count on a similar outcome this year.

DIANNE BYSTROM: Turnout is a big question mark. And so, you know, going from polling preferences to actually getting out to the polling place is, I think, key for all of these races.

HORSLEY: In the past, Democrats have successfully used reproductive rights as a wedge issue to motivate women voters, especially young, unmarried women. But it's not clear that strategy is working so well this year. While Obama nodded to women's health in his speech today, he focused primarily on economic issues, including the minimum wage. He says boosting the minimum to $10.10 an hour would benefit 28 million Americans, most of them women.


OBAMA: We have to do better because women deserve better. And by the way, when women do well, everybody does well.


HORSLEY: After his red meat address, Obama ordered a cheeseburger at Gregg's, medium well. And before leaving the restaurant, he asked his fellow diners if everyone's ready to vote on Tuesday. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.
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