Where's Gore? Follow the Women Voters

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It looks like Naomi Wolf may have been worth her salary after all. After months of trailing rival George W. Bush, Al Gore has emerged as the candidate of choice among women voters, taking a lead of up to 10 percentage points in several polls. Bush's early popularity with women caught many pundits — and Gore himself — off-guard. Plenty of Democrats presumed that Gore could ride the coattails of President Clinton's persistent and, some would say, perplexing favor with the female electorate. Those who smugly waited for Clinton to simply hand off women voters to Gore were in for a nasty surprise.

"Those sorts of assumptions don't hold when you have an opponent like Bush who is comfortable with traditionally female-skewed issues like education and even the environment," says TIME Washington correspondent Karen Tumulty. Happily for Gore, his opponent's female insurgency happened early enough — and with enough force — that he was able to get his act together. "Gore recognized pretty quickly that he had to get out there and work hard for women voters," says Tumulty. And work he has. After hunkering down with a team of advisers, including feminist author Wolf, he's changed everything from his wardrobe to his talking points, bombarding women's groups with pointed talks on Social Security and women, health care and women, abortion rights and women. Bush, on the other hand, seems to be losing his grip on his female lead — a slip that should set off warning bells in the GOP. After all, we learned one thing during the Clinton campaigns: As women voters go, so goes the country.