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EMILY'S List's influence waning?

From NBC's Domenico Montanaro
National Journal's Bara Vaida and Jennifer Skalka have the cover story of this month's magazine on Ellen Malcolm and Emily's List. (Kirk Victor also has a piece worth noting in the magazine called "Disbanded Brothers" about the "frayed, if not severed" ties that Kerry and Hagel "once had to John McCain." More after the jump.)

VIDEO: Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who is with a group of ten women Democratic senators attempting to prevent Hillary Clinton supporters from voting for John McCain, talks with MSNBC's Contessa Brewers.

Vaida and Skalka write: "Although EMILY's List is not to blame for Clinton's narrow loss to Barack Obama, the group had a lot riding on her candidacy--politically and psychologically. Her defeat calls into question the very core of EMILY's List's strategy--that women will back female candidates in the interest of equality, and that gender and identity politics can trump issues, message, and personality. Clinton's failure, in many ways, is also a reflection of the divide between Baby Boomer women (the foundation of EMILY's List) and their daughters, who, according to exit poll data, came out in force in the primaries for Obama. Among women age 29 and younger, Obama routinely defeated Clinton in key primary states, even in contests that Clinton won, while Clinton overwhelmingly beat Obama among women age 45 and older.

"Clinton's fall from front-runner to runner-up capped a challenging few years for EMILY's List, which pioneered the use of direct mail and donor bundling to raise early money for Democratic women candidates. In the 2006 election, Democrats triumphed mightily, yet EMILY's List faltered, as 74 percent of the challengers it backed lost their general election contests.

"In the current campaign cycle, meanwhile, the group has drawn fire from other Democrats for employing divisive tactics--from pitting abortion-rights Democratic women against Democratic congressmen who also favor abortion rights, to feuding publicly with another high-profile abortion-rights group about its decision to endorse Obama.

"EMILY's List has won wide praise over the years for leveraging the power of women at the polls and building an unprecedented network of progressive female donors. But now some political observers say that the group's influence may be waning."  

Victor writes: "Although Hagel and Kerry remain friends with McCain, their political ties to him are frayed, if not severed. Hagel, who is not seeking reelection this year, has not even endorsed McCain, now the presumptive Republican nominee. Hagel's independent-spirited wife has contributed $500 to Sen. Barack
Obama of Illinois, McCain's Democratic rival for the White House. ... Kerry, meanwhile, has emerged as a leading surrogate for Obama and as one of the most aggressive counterpunchers to McCain. ...

"In the insular world of the Senate, where the importance of personal relationships
is magnified, the positioning of Hagel and Kerry in this year's presidential contest is especially striking. After all, they have worked with McCain on various issues over the years and, like him, are members of the so-called band of brothers, the small group of senators who saw combat in Vietnam."