Elizabeth Dole may have discovered a group of women voters Wednesday where President Clinton doesn't have the edge - the stroller voters.
Young, stay-at-home mothers like Michelle Rodriguez, 25, showed up in droves at the Augusta Mall with their children in strollers to hear Mrs. Dole, wife of Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole, talk about families and returning control of education back to the communities.
"You have a situation where by remote control bureaucrats behind their desks in Washington are in control of all of our schools. That's not right," Mrs. Dole said. "Let's give the power back to the parents and the teachers."
It's exactly what Mrs. Rodriguez wanted to hear as she looked down on her son, Nicholas, passed out in the stroller. "I have a 14-month-old son and I believe I can raise him better than the government," she said. "I think Elizabeth Dole let me know they want me to be able to do that."
Polls have given Mr. Clinton a decided edge among women voters, a lead that puzzled young mothers like Susan Albert, 34, of Evans, as she attempted to talk and hang on to the arm of her 2-year-old daughter, Miranda.
Particularly in light of who he's married to, she said.
"I have no respect for Hillary," she said, making a sour face. "Hillary's full of a lot of hot air."
It was a sentiment echoed around the mall's Center Court among the crowd of 700, which was mostly younger white women with children and senior citizens.
"I know a lot of women friends of mine say if it was an election between Hillary and Elizabeth, Elizabeth would win hands down," said Doni Harrison, 39, an engineer. "Hillary is such a liar."
And Bob Dole will keep his word, Mrs. Dole said, launching into her biography of Mr. Dole's humble beginnings and good deeds since, recalling especially his long and torturous recovery from war wounds that robbed him of most of the use of his right arm.
"That's the same kind of perseverance and determination he's going to exhibit as president to help this country back on the right track," Mrs. Dole said.
She drew loud cheers as she touted the campaign's $500-per-child tax credit, scholarships to attend private and religious schools and a 15 percent across the board tax cut that could help restore the traditional family by relieving some of its tax burdens, she said.
"If both parents work, it should be by choice, not economic necessity, wouldn't you agree?" she said to thunderous applause.
"Did she say how they were going to pay for it?" asked Caroline Adelman, Clinton- Gore spokeswoman for Georgia. "No? That's because she can't. They can't explain how they're going to pay for it and balance the budget."
But Mrs. Dole was ready to address the skepticism.
"They're right. They can't do it. Bob Dole can, and Bob Dole will," Mrs. Dole said.
Democrats will get their turn to talk about education when Vice President Al Gore Jr. visits Atlanta on Friday.
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