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McCain Courts the Female Vote at Women-Centric Town Hall

HUDSON, Wis. — At today’s town hall meeting for women, Sen. John McCain sought to demonstrate that he is in touch with the concerns and problems of ordinary American families. With the help of his wife, Cindy, McCain used humor and anecdotes that most women would be able to relate to their own lives, in an effort to endear himself to the almost uniformly female audience. Despite some pre-show peculiarities, the introduction of the event was actually well-scripted — and judging from the laughs and cheers coming from the friendly crowd, it seemed like the strategy worked.

The McCains were introduced by the owner of the venue, LouAnne Reger, CEO of J&L Steel Erectors, the host of the event, who told her story — complete with happy ending — of a successful, twice-divorced woman who founded a contracting firm before meeting the man of her dreams. Next came the rail-thin Cindy, who talked about her two sons currently in the military before sharing her weight-loss secret with the women in the audience:

"Do you want to know how to lose 30 pounds? Help your husband run for president. I am standing here in a pair of pants that are two sizes too big."

The senator told a story about his headstrong mother, Roberta, who wanted to go to France so she could drive around the country. When she got there, according to McCain, she was told she was too old to rent a car, so she bought one and proceeded with her plan.

Before launching into his regular stump speech, McCain went through the requisite litany of advancements made by women in the last few decades, including the recent nomination of a women for the rank of four-star general in the U.S. Army. He also made sure to frame issues in terms specifically relevant to women — like health insurance portability, which, he said, was especially important to women because they leave jobs more frequently than men, due to maternity.

The questions from the audience — and McCain’s responses — were not markedly different from any other recent town hall. There were queries about Iran, health care, illegal immigration, as well as parochial concerns. His jokes got laughs — a change from the tepid responses they drew yesterday at a crowd full of autoworkers in Detroit.

Overall, the format worked well for McCain. It gave him an opportunity to highlight parts of his personal narrative that are usually overlooked — his marriage and family life. For the most part, it seemed like the audience ate it up. Assuming McCain is going to continue his pursuit of independent female voters — and Democratic women who supported Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton — I’d bet he will hold a few more of these women-oriented town halls in the near future.

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