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Men and the Big P, Women and the Big O

When John McCain’s campaign picked Sarah Palin to be the veteran Senator’s running mate, they hoped this move would snatch up votes from women—primarily white, working class women—from Barack Obama. From the outset, the campaign has tried to brand Palin as the hockey mom next door. She’s a working mother of five. She began her political career on the PTA at her kid’s school. She’s a churchgoer, a pro-lifer, and can keep up with the boys.

Unfortunately for the McCain campaign, the branding didn’t quite take off the way they wanted it too. Rather than being adored by women who saw themselves in her, she is more popular among men, who hope to see themselves in her. She’s come off less as the “hockey mom” and more as the sexy librarian (who doesn’t actually read books).

As it turns out, these guys, who The New York Times refers to as the “Sarah Dude population” [www.nytimes.com], and who yell out things at rallies such as, “You tell ’em baby,”are Palin’s top supporters. In fact, 44 percent of men approve of Palin compare to 36 percent of women, according to a Times poll.

If Palin’s biggest supporters are dudes, then who are women voting for? Yup. Barack Obama.

Obama has been leading overall in the polls, so it may come as little surprise that, despite Palin’s effort to win the female vote and convert Clinton supporters, Obama still leads among women, and more so each day. Afterall, he has a superior campaign, an unprecended ground effort and policies that appeal to more women than McCain’s policies.

But there may be more to this. If Palin has attracted the “dude” demographic, in part because of her sex appeal, then it’s probably safe to assume that Obama has done the same. He has been hailed for his fashion, his good looks and muscular body, and of course he is brilliant and successful, traits more important to women than men, studies show. He could probably afford to be a little funnier, but hey, you can’t have it all.

For whatever the reason they’re doing it, the fact that women like Obama more than McCain is significant because more women vote than men. Women have come out to the polls in greater numbers in every single election for the past 40 years, and are expected to do so again this year. They tend to be the most educated voters as well.

When we’re not in the thick of smears, policies, promises and stump speeches, and when we finally have an outcome of this election, it will be hard not to speculate on the extent to which sex appeal informs a voters decision. Perhaps we’ll then better understand if some of us vote more from heads, our hearts or other parts.

–Jamie Wong