Hillary Clinton stumps for Alison Lundergan Grimes as Democrats court women

In the final weekend before midterm elections Democrats are aggressively courting female voters. Hillary Clinton campaigned for Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky, who is challenging Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

Timothy D. Easley/AP
Kentucky democratic senatorial candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes, (l.), and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wave to a group of supporters during a rally in Highland Heights, Ky., Saturday.

Their grip on the Senate majority slipping, anxious Democrats are aggressively courting female voters on the final weekend of a midterm campaign that will decide the balance of power in Washington and statehouses during President Barack Obama's final years in office.

Republicans already have begun to outline plans for a GOP-controlled Congress even as polls suggest that more than a half dozen Senate contests are considered tossups.

Obama used his last radio and Internet address before Tuesday's election to seek support from women, who are expected to play a pivotal role in races from New Hampshire to Iowa.

"When women succeed, America succeeds," the president said, using "women" 15 times. "And we should be choosing policies that benefit women — because that benefits all of us."

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, facing a challenge from Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky, struck a bipartisan tone as he pledged in the GOP's weekly address that his party would "bring the current legislative gridlock to a merciful end."

"We want to engage members from both parties in the legislative process, to get our democracy working again the way it was designed, McConnell said. He predicted that Republicans would "be able to work with the president to ensure solid, pro-middle class ideas are signed into law."

The election three days away will decide control of the Senate, the House and 36 governors' seats.

The Senate contests could dramatically shape the final two years of Obama's presidency. The GOP already controls the House and must gain at least six seats for a Senate majority in the Congress that convenes in January.

Republicans appear certain of at least three new seats — in West Virginia, Montana and South Dakota. There are nine other competitive races, including six for seats currently in Democratic hands.

One is New Hampshire, where Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is trying to win a second term and facing a strong challenge from former Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass.,

Shaheen planned to spend part of Saturday campaigning with EMILY's List president Stephanie Schriock, whose organization is spending millions to elect Democratic women.

"There isn't a race is this country where the women vote isn't critical," Schriock said. She acknowledged that Democrats' traditional advantage with women would shrink considerably because women typically vote in smaller numbers in midterm elections.

Public research polls suggest that women have moved in the GOP's direction since September.

In last month's Associated Press-GfK poll, 47 percent of likely female voters said they favored a Democratic-controlled Congress while 40 percent wanted the Republicans to take over. In a poll released last week, the two parties were about even among women — 44 percent prefer the Republicans, 42 percent the Democrats.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is doing her part to drive turnout.

The former secretary of state, a possible 2016 presidential candidate, was to campaign Saturday alongside Grimes, the Kentucky Democrat trying to defeat McConnell.

Former President Bill Clinton was scheduled to appear with Iowa Rep. Bruce Braley, the Democratic nominee for an open Senate seat.

Obama planned to head to Detroit for an evening rally for Senate candidate Gary Peters and Mark Schauer, the nominee for Michigan governor. Peters is the rare Senate candidate who was welcoming the president's embrace, though the Democrat holds a comfortable lead in the race.

Women's votes have shifted sharply between presidential years and midterm elections. In 2012, women broke for Obama by an 11-point margin, according to exit polls. In 2010, when few candidates raised social issues as a major campaign theme, female voters split evenly between Democratic and Republican House candidates.

Democrats have put women's health and reproductive rights at the center of Senate campaigns in Alaska, Iowa, North Carolina and especially Colorado.

Half the ads aired by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and those who are backing his re-election have criticized GOP Rep. Cory Gardner on women's health issues.

Some ads have claimed that Gardner wants to ban certain kinds of birth control. Gardner has tried to nullify the attack by proposing that birth control pills be available over the counter, instead of requiring a prescription.

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