UPDATED - Women voters: Should we interview presidential candidates or stick to their spouses?

UPDATED - Women voters: Should we interview presidential candidates or stick to their spouses?
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This headline isn't a gimmick--it represents a real choice that BlogHer, the Web's leading guide to 7.6 million women who read and write blogs, needs to make in our Election 2008 coverage. We'd like to hear from you to head in the right direction (see poll below).

Frankly, our political team is confused by the response of presidential candidates to BlogHer, and to some other organizations and blogs by women. For the past six months, BlogHer has invited seven leading presidential candidates -- Democratic and Republican, we're non-partisan -- to participate in our community and conferences, most recently by answering 12 policy questions on video, about health care, Iraq, the economy and the environment. We've offered to fly our editors, Morra Aarons-Mele (also of Techpresident.com) and Mary Katharine Ham (also of Townhall.com) and camera crew to the candidate and to take no more than 15 minutes of their time. To date, both editors have made in-roads with the campaigns and we do have another year until Election Day.

But at this point we've been told no, both in words and in actions, as have some other women's blogs and political groups. And there's more -- what really confuses us is that:

* BlogHer has not obtained any interviews with presidential candidates. BlogHer has been offered an opportunity to interview two candidate spouses, Ann Romney and Michelle Obama (note: these were separate conversations. More in our action timeline below)

* Just last week, two presidential campaigns (Senators Clinton and Obama) marketed Web sites devoted exclusively to women, even specifically to moms. These are the very women who populate BlogHer's conferences, visit our sites and write the blogs in our ad network. In fact, if they're trying to reach moms, the majority of BlogHer's 1,100 BlogHer Ad Network members are mothers, and most blog about that parenting experience! (More detail, including their recruiting letters to women and moms in our action timeline below.)

I believe these candidates are missing a key piece of the social media puzzle where women voters are concerned so I'll spell it out here: BlogHer's surveys demonstrate time and again the extraordinary influence of women who blog. According to our most recent survey, 62 percent of our bloggers and their readers have purchased a product based on a recommendation from a blogger and 52 percent have recommended a product to friends online. Presidential candidates - the ultimate product in an election year -- who earn the votes of these women stand to benefit from blogger influence in our communities! Women who blog are an essential and influential segment of the American female population that has made up the majority of American voters since 1964.

So our question is, do women who vote want to be marketed to by presidential campaigns or spoken with? And by whom? We think that if they want to get our votes, candidates themselves should answer our questions. But only if that's the course women online support. So -- could you please lead us in the right direction by answering these questions? The BlogHer community has been having a big discussion of the issue to this post. We'll take all votes on this poll right to the presidential campaigns.

How Should Presidential Candidates Earn Women's Votes?

CLICK HERE to take the survey questions described below

1. Do you want BlogHer to talk with the candidates themselves -- Obama, Hillary, Mitt, etc.-- or will their families and supporters -- Oprah, Chelsea, Ann, etc. -- do?

Spouses and supporters

2. Do you want presidential candidates to answer policy questions in the Voter Manifesto?

Yes, on video
Yes, in print
No, the candidates don't have to but the campaign should
No, I have a different question I'd like to ask: (Open-ended question)

3. Are you turned on or turned off by the candidate's tactics to reach moms (as spelled out below)?
I like efforts like "Women for Obama" and "Moms for Hillary"
I'm turned off by these efforts
Other ____

4. Do you want BlogHer to interview mainstream media personalities who have interviewed and know the candidates and their positions?

Katie Couric | CBS
Gwen Ifill | PBS
Rosie O'Donnell
Mara Liasson | NPR
Oprah Winfrey
Barbara Walters | ABC
Other ____________

5. Where do you get most of your news?


6. Do you have a message for the candidates about this initiative that you'd like to share?

Thank you for voting, and telling candidates who you are and what you think. If you are so inspired, we would very much appreciate your help spreading the word about this poll, which you can place on your own blog by copying and pasting this link.

To provide you with more information, here's a timeline of the past year and the work BlogHer has done to bring your questions to candidates:

Jan 2007:
-Democratic Senators Obama and Clinton announce candidacies in same week, resulting in a rash of excited election-related posts from blogs that rarely if ever talk politics

May/June 2007:
-BlogHer reaches out to representatives of Democratic and Republican campaigns to invite staffers to speak at and/or to attend BlogHer 2007 in Chicago.

July 2007:
- Clinton and Edwards campaigns send representatives to BlogHer 2007, with 800 women in Chicago. Elizabeth Edwards keynotes.
- All seven Democratic candidates attend the Yearly Kos convention in Chicago, with 1,000 progressive political bloggers. In response, PunditMom blogs "An Open Letter From the Candidates" on The Huffington Post.

Aug/Sept 2007:
- BlogHer is offered interviews with two wives of presidential candidates, Michelle Obama and Ann Romney.
- Rudy Giuliani addresses 1,500 women at the National Federation of Republican Women in Palm Springs, CA; he is the only Republican candidate to attend.
- The Chicago Moms Blog invites the Obamas to a meeting and get turned down, while a sister blogger on the Silicon Valley Moms Blog donates her way into a meeting they have with Oprah.
- Hillary Clinton agrees to answer questions submitted to iVillage.

Oct 2007:
-BlogHer invites Candidates Clinton, Edwards, Obama, (Democrats) and Giuliani, McCain, Romney and Thompson (Republicans) to answer Voter Manifesto questions on-camera, including an offer to fly to the U.S. location of the candidate's choice and be interviewed for 15 minutes by a member of her or his own political party, by either Editor Morra Aarons or Editor Mary Katharine Ham (also of Townhall.com). No candidate accepts.
-BlogHer co-sponsors 10questions.com, a techpresident.com initiative co-sponsored by The New York Times and MSNBC.

Nov 2007:
-BlogHer re-invites candidates to answer Voter Manifesto questions on-camera. No candidate accepts.
-BlogHer members submit questions to 10questions.

Dec 2007: BlogHer re-invites candidates.
-Candidates John Edwards and Mike Huckabee submit answers to 10questions.com. Candidate Ron Paul also agrees to participate, according to the site.
- Sen. Obama tours Iowa with Oprah Winfrey and his campaign markets "Women for Obama" to women bloggers using this email (note: The Obama campaign launched "Women for Obama" in Feb. 2007):

"As part of the Obama for America campaign effort to engage women across the country, the Women for Obama team is reaching out to women's political blogs, seeking ways to bring useful information about Barack, his policies, his record and his approach to leadership to women on line.

"Would you be interested in sharing information about Barack with your readers? Perhaps by linking to our website (www.women.barackobama.com)? Could we send you our weekly e-newsletter, for use in your own blog? Do you ever invite guest bloggers? We would happily arrange for a senior member of Barack's political or policy advisory teams to provide insight into the campaign, his policy proposals, how women are reacting to or affected by the election, etc.

"As background, Women for Obama is a national grassroots network of 20,000 women working in the field every day on behalf of Senator Barack Obama. They serve as the backbone of our operation on the ground by reaching out to undecided women and organizing supporters to play an active role in their communities to help elect Obama their next President. Through organizing activities such as canvassing, phone banks, book clubs, house parties, community donation drives, caucus and primary trainings, fundraising and online outreach, Women for Obama has engaged women throughout this country who are now positioned to make the difference in this election..."

- A few days later, Sen. Clinton's campaign launches Moms for Hillary with this offer:

"Sign up to become a Mom for Hillary and you could win a special Mom's Night Out!

"The holidays are in full swing - what would you want most? A night when you can put up your feet with your favorite pals and have someone throw a party for YOU! You can be that one lucky person who is randomly selected from the first moms who sign-up on the Moms for Hillary website to receive a fabulous - and very unique - prize.

"Not one - but two - former White House Social Secretaries, Ann Stock and Capricia Marshall, will plan and execute a lovely gathering for you and your favorite moms. They will come with a bundle of campaign goodies, including t-shirts, bumper stickers, a signed book and lots of stories about Hillary.

"Holidays are Hillary's favorite time of the year! Let Ann and Capricia tell you all about Hillary's family's special traditions and favorite things! The event will be at a venue and date selected at the discretion of the Committee in consultation with the winner."

We look forward to your thoughts...

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