Security Moms On a Mission

So-called Security Moms (search) are seen by many as a key voting bloc in this year's nail-biter of a presidential election. And although some analysts are skeptical of the influence — or even the existence — of this group of voters, Security Moms told that they're very real and they're here to stay.

"I think it's scoffed at — like we're not an important group and maybe we're not, at this point, a big national group but we are aiming numbers," said Terri Zupancic of Akron, Ohio, who considers herself a Security Mom. "We are gaining attention and I think that sometime in the future, they will have to stop ignoring the fact that we do exist and have our own opinions."

Zupancic, whose son is currently serving in Iraq, is a member of Security Moms 4 Bush, a group whose grassroots campaign started out in one woman's home and has grown into a movement in nearly 40 states. On Saturday, veterans groups supporting Bush will hold rallies themed "Never Forget: Protecting Our Homeland," with the Security Moms in New Jersey, California, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland and Virginia.

Bush isn't the only candidate to gain support from Security Moms, also known as "Soccer Moms" with a new priority. In such a divisive election year, many female supporters of John Kerry also have put security above education and health care.

"I'm fearful that women who have small children are not concerned with the realities of the plans proposed by these two people and the acts that George Bush has taken and by the policies he has put in place," said Nita Martin, a registered Republican who is part of Military Moms With a Mission, a group of Security Moms touring the country stumping for Kerry.

Moms for Bush

Zupancic said Security Moms 4 Bush exploit the Internet to brainstorm about pro-Bush activities and write pro-Bush letters to editors. They stick pro-Bush bumper stickers on their cars, push get-out-the-vote efforts, offer to watch the children of friends while their parents vote and host parties in favor of their candidate.

"It appeals to moms, in general, because they do have that 'lioness factor' to protect their children, but it appeals to all groups," said Nancy Kennon, who started the Security Moms 4 Bush group out of her Westchester County, N.Y., home and prints her business cards on her home computer. "We know that we've touched a lot of people … our moms feel like they're making an impact."

Kennon said Security Moms 4 Bush have substituted TV dinners for their regular family meals and put their kids in front of the VCRs in order to take on what most of them agree is the pre-eminent issue of the campaign.

"National security overrides everything else because if we're not safe, if we don't feel comfortable sending our kids to school every day, then health care, Social Security and taxes, the economy — all those other things — are not going to matter if we're afraid and if there are terrorist attacks in our country," Kennon said.

Kennon said the moms have devoted hours upon hours to getting out the vote.

"This has consumed us … and we're promising our families — just a few more weeks and things will get back to normal — we have to go all-out," Kennon said. "It just seems like we have to do it now. It's been exciting and it's been heartwarming to be in touch with so many people around the country."

Moms for Kerry

Military Moms With a Mission is on a 4,000-mile tour across seven states and 34 cities to send the message that Bush hasn't been straight with the American people about the war, the economy and national security. The group has been joined on the trail by Kerry, his running mate John Edwards and the candidates' wives, Teresa Heinz Kerry and Elizabeth Edwards.

The moms will be met by congressional members, local politicians, veterans, and other military families along their trip. They will attend local events and rallies, including state fairs, Kerry-Edwards house meetings and military family roundtables.

Nita Martin has two sons in the military. The other military moms she has met on the road have sons or daughters deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

"The news from Iraq is worse every day and I get more and more concerned," Martin told from a cell phone while on the road with the military moms. "The mothers who are traveling with us … it's a similar story."

Martin got involved in the group because she was afraid of another four years of Bush.

"Frankly, I was terrified at the prospect of George Bush being re-elected and I was terrified at the prospect of John Kerry not being elected because my sons are in the military and I worry about who our commander in chief is," Martin said. "It's apparent to me John Kerry actually has the background to do this. He's actually qualified, he understands war, he went to one. I think he's the kind of person who will take deliberate action … after he's planned thoroughly … to protect our children."

Lisa Leitz, a member of Military Moms With a Mission whose husband is a Navy pilot, said Bush "misused" the trust placed in him after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. She said it's her group's goal to get that message out.

Leitz said she believes the Bush administration has overlooked the fact that the more civilians in Iraq killed, the more likely terrorists' ranks will be boosted — and that makes America less secure.

"That's something that doesn't get talked about by President Bush but needs to be talked about … [Kerry] can really show Americans how best to keep us safe at home," Leitz said. "We need someone who's going to be realistic and not just a cowboy … it's great to want to protect the United States — we have to have a commander in chief who does that but we have to be smart about that."

But Security Moms in support of Bush say Kerry's stance is too defensive and that's not in the best interest of the country.

"We don't want to wait until we're attacked to react — that's what happened Sept. 11," Kennon said.

Even for Zupancic, who didn't vote for Bush in 2000, she has no doubt Bush is the right man to be in the White House after Sept. 11.

"After 9/11, when I watched him and listened to him, he became my president," she said. "I feel he is sincere and I feel that he really cares about what's going on and what happens to our country."