Obama roundtable at Women's Building this morning

Presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama is scheduled to host a roundtable discussion this morning in San Francisco's Mission District on his economic plan for working families. The Illinois senator plans to speak with a group of Bay Area women about his plan to offer a tax cut for working families, reduction of childcare and paid medical and sick leave.

The event is taking place at the San Francisco Women's Building at 3543 18th Street.

Obama seeks female support

The first two Democratic presidential contests taught Barack Obama a lesson – as women go, so goes the state. Obama won the most votes from women in Iowa, and he won the state. In New Hampshire, he lost the women and the state.

With new contests approaching in his tight race with Hillary Rodham Clinton, both candidates are focusing on winning over female voters, with the latest national polls showing Clinton with the lead. The two candidates' approaches to gaining the support of women are similar – showing that they are listening to their concerns, particularly about the kitchen table economic issues that hit women disproportionately.

Which is why Obama found himself in a suburban Los Angeles back yard Wednesday, sitting at a round table in white resin chairs with homeowner Mimi Vitello talking about her mortgage woes. Vitello, a nurse who is taking college courses at night, bought her home with an adjustable interest-only loan, and she's afraid she will lose the house with her mortgage payments on the rise.

Throughout the session, Obama made several references to the particular challenges women and minorities face in receiving mortgages or loans. The roundtable in Van Nuys was one of three he had planned in four days: Van Nuys, Reno and San Francisco.

Obama told reporters recently that his strategy to win women back is to make sure “they know what I have a track record of, what I've done on critical issues that are important to women. Not just equal rights and equal pay, not just things like childcare and daycare, and early childhood education, but opportunity that is in many ways disproportionate.”

Clinton is doing some of the same type of round-table events. Clinton senior adviser Ann Lewis said it's an important part of the outreach to women.

Clinton is “saying to them, `I found my voice by listening to you and I'm going to bring your voice to the White House,'” Lewis said. “That's the kind of leader they want – is someone who hears them and speaks for them.”

Obama's victory among women in Iowa was surprising because Clinton spent so much of her campaign trying to persuade women to put her in the White House, especially older women her campaign considered most likely to show up and caucus.

“Clearly the lesson from Iowa is that we had to be far more inclusive about reaching more women,” Lewis said. “We got a very good response from the women who were in our model. There were a whole lot of younger and independent women we weren't talking to.”

Polls of Iowa caucus-goers taken by The Associated Press and television networks show that Clinton did better among older married women than with younger, single women. But she turned that around quickly in New Hampshire, where polls of primary voters show she won both married and single women and was much more competitive with younger women.

And New Hampshire women said to a larger degree that the economy was the most important issue. Those women voted overwhelmingly for Clinton over Obama, 52 percent to 34 percent. Middle-aged women in particular tend to be most concerned about the economy, and they went narrowly for Obama in Iowa and strongly for Clinton in New Hampshire.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll out Sunday showed Clinton maintaining her strong advantage over Obama among married women nationally, 53 percent to 40 percent. But she had lost her advantage over Obama among unmarried women, the poll showed, with 43 percent of them supporting Obama and 40 percent supporting Clinton. The pollsters said that was primarily because of Obama's big increase in support among blacks, since a quarter of all unmarried women in the poll were black.

That could be an advantage in South Carolina, where at least half the Democratic primary voters in the Jan. 26 contest are expected to be black. Obama has had the most aggressive campaign for women in SouthCarolina, where his campaign has been holding meetings in beauty shops and living rooms for months.

In Nevada, the outcome is more uncertain, but both candidates have been trying to win women over. The Clinton campaign recently announced 1,500 Women for Hillary supporters in the state, and Obama began the week by trying to defend his record on abortion rights, which had come under attack in other states.

— Nedra Pickler (Associated Press) and Bay City News contributed to this report.

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