In October 2004, as John Kerry marched forth on his quest to blow the election, pollster Mark Penn put forth a theory for why the Democrats weren't locking in middle-aged women who went for Al Gore and Bill Clinton.
These modern moms work, have kids and live in the suburbs. They are not concerned about party labels, Vietnam service records or the National Guard. They are voting on the basis of what they think will be best for the future of their families. Forty-seven percent of these voters believe security is the most important issue—a reversal from late May, when 50 percent said the economy was most important and only 28 percent named security. It is not too late to turn them around again.
These women were labelled "security moms," and Penn's party spent a long chunk of 2005 and 2006 fretting about how to win them. It was thought that Hillary Clinton, the first frontrunning female candidate for the White House who had cast all the "right" votes on foreign policy, and whose pollster happened to be Mark Penn, had cracked the code. But then Barack Obama started winning elections. Clinton is closing out her Texas campaign with this ad:
It's 3:00 a.m. and your children are asleep. There's a phone in the White House, and it's ringing. Something is happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call. Whether someone knows the world's leaders, knows the military, someone tested and ready to lead. It's 3am and your children are safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?
I was expecting it to cut to video of Samuel L. Jackson, but no: It cuts to Hillary Clinton. As was quickly pointed out, this gambit violates one of the lines Bill Clinton used in 2004, trying to convince people that George W. Bush was playing unfair. It cuts against polling on this issue, too. In Wisconsin, 51 percent of voters claimed that Obama was the "most qualified" candidate for commander-in-chief. Only 3 percent of the voters who said that went for Clinton; 15 percent of the people who bought Clinton's argument went for Obama anyway. Most amusingly, Clinton's ad was put together by the brains who cut this ad for Walter Mondale.
The most awesome, powerful responsibility in the world lies in the hand that picks up this phone. The idea of an unsure, unsteady, untested hand is something to really think about. This is the issues of our times. On March 20, vote as if the future of the world is at stake. Mondale. This president will know what he's doing, and that's the difference between Gary Hart and Walter Mondale.
It's hard to imagine the ensuing Mondale presidency without that ad making it all possible.