Romney needs to deal with the 'War on women'

2012-04-13 13:42

 New York - Republicans have been screeching themselves hoarse claiming that there is no "war on women" in party policy.

At the same time Democrats are saying within six feet of every microphone that there is. Whichever camp you may find yourself in, Republicans currently have a very serious problem with women voters.

Although women tend to vote Democrat, and marginally outnumber men in terms of number of voters, Republicans have lost the women vote by a few percentage points but dominated among men to secure victories.

In 2004 George Bush lost women 51% to 48% but won men 55% to 44% to win. In 2008 the gap was much larger: 56% of women voted for Barack Obama while only 43% voted for John McCain, so it’s no surprise that Obama won the election convincingly.

The current problem for Republicans is that incumbent President Barack Obama leads Republican candidate Mitt Romney among women by 18 percentage points in a USA Today/Gallup poll of voters in swing states*, 54% to 36%. Which is a loose way of saying Romney is in deep kak if this keeps up.

While Romney has verged from vague to moderate on his views about policies disproportionately affecting women, trying not to offend anyone, his party has not really followed his lead.

Here are five things Mr Romney needs to do to close the 18-point gap among women in swing states, which will, quite frankly, hand the election to Barack Obama if nothing is done to arrest it.

1) Make Rick Santorum stop talking until 7 November

Even when Rick Santorum was leading in the polls he couldn't stick to a message that was working (a focus on industry and manufacturing), instead dropping sound bites such as asking women to make the best of a bad situation and not consider abortion should they become pregnant due to rape.

His hardline anti-abortion views, anti-contraception opinions, about which he is very VERY vocal, do indeed resonate with women voters who refer to themselves as evangelical.

In fact, conservative women prefer Santorum to Romney in these swing states (Obama enjoys an 18-point lead among women in swing states over Romney, but only 15 points over Santorum).

The problem is that these views fail dismally in the minds of Democrat, moderate and independent voters. Very dismally.

According to a CNN exit poll when Santorum lost his Senate seat in 2006, he lost independent voters by 44 points, moderates by 30 points and women by 22 points.

That's a serious eina. One does not win an election without these sectors of the electorate, particularly as women are the larger gender demographic.

2) Try and stop Republican state legislatures passing invasive anti-abortion legislation

The Guttmacher Institute, which aims to advance sexual health around the world, has measured the number of new bills passed that restrict abortion at the state level by year. Since 1985, not one year saw more than 40 bills passed, with the peak in 2005 at around 38 bills.

Then the 2010 mid-terms came where Democrats took an absolute pasting. Republicans took control of twelve governorships, won both houses of congress in five states, took a second chamber in four states, expanded majorities in three states and took one chamber off Democrats in three states (two of which were Oregon and New York, both usually strongly Democratic).

Bearing in mind what the electoral variable is, over 90 bills restricting abortion rights were passed in 2011 – the first year that all these states fell under Republican control.

While Mitt Romney has absolutely no control over this, it is going to hurt him as he tries to appeal to moderates and independent voters, let alone the liberals who will remain Democrat.

In particular, the nature of some of the laws, including government-mandated (not doctor) ultrasounds which could be transvaginal (in Texas), doctors being forced to tell patients fabrications about breast cancer (New Hampshire) declaring the start of pregnancy on the last day of a woman’s period, not during fertilisation (Arizona).  You can kind of see why a decent portion of women aren't really that into this whole deal. Mr Romney, best you make them stop.

3) Ask Rush Limbaugh to tone it down, or at least reject what he says

Rush Limbaugh is America's top radio host and is a huge voice for the conservative portion of the country.

His show is syndicated so far and wide that he averages around 15-million listeners per day, and sometimes scales as high as 20-million.

Well Limbaugh took issue with a woman named Sandra Fluke who testified in Congress about why medical aid plans should cover the cost of contraception - the example she used was a friend who lost an ovary because she could not afford the medication which would have fixed it, which was The Pill.

Limbaugh lashed her on his radio show, calling her a slut and a prostitute, while adding that if she wanted her contraception for "free", then she should film videos of her having sex and spread them around in return.

Not really the kind of thing you'd like associated with your party, right? While Limbaugh has no connections I am aware of with the Republican Party, he does profess to speak for conservatives: The Republicans' base.

Again, what Limbaugh says is totally out of Mitt Romney's control, but if Romney wishes to close the gap with women, best tell Limbaugh to stop telegraphing words like "slut" around.

4) Stop asking your wife to speak to women

Romney has repeatedly mentioned his wife Ann in relation to women and sent her out to campaign on women's issues.

It was Ann who told us that women care about the economy, that women want jobs and disbelieve Democrat assertions of a "war on women". Mitt was asked while campaigning in Wisconsin whether or not he thought that women were concerned with paying for contraception outside their health insurance plans.

His opening words in response were, "I wish Ann were here, my wife were here, for a lot of reasons, I wish she were here. But I wish she were here to answer that question in particular."

Romney is proficient enough to defend his policies to women, and is more than capable of listening to what women say to him in response. He doesn't need to invoke his wife every time an issue relating to women arises, in spite of her seemingly being more comfortable when in front of a camera than him.

5) Aim for equality

Mitt Romney's campaign made one massive screw up this week. During a conference call with a crew of journalists, Romney's campaign froze when a reporter from the Huffington Post asked him whether he supported the Lilly Ledbetter Act.

The official name of the act is the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, and is the first piece of legislation President Barack Obama ever signed into law. It outlaws paying women and men differently for doing the same job.

After an awkward silence, Romney's campaign stuttered that they would get back to the journalist who asked the question. A simple "yes, I support equal pay for women" could have worked wonders.

While Democrats will continue to try and frame a war a women, if Romney grabs the situation by the scruff of the neck, he will go a long way to closing the giant poll gap amongst women in swing states. If he doesn't, he can kiss a presidential stint goodbye. And we need not even bother with an election.


*Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin.  

  • johncarlos.biza - 2012-04-13 14:04

    Shouldn't this be a column?

  • tobydt - 2012-04-13 17:39

    One of the reasons why Obama will run for a second term. Polls in the US show that Obama is more popular with women.

  • StopTheWarOnWomen - 2012-04-13 19:08

    "Rush Limbaugh is America's top radio host and is a huge voice for the conservative portion of the country. His show is syndicated so far and wide that he averages around 15-million listeners per day, and sometimes scales as high as 20-million." Check your numbers, new figures are out and he has fallen. And for years people have been challenging the numbers he gives to sell advertising. There is a growing movement to oust his hate-filled incitement for his tea party dittoheads: JOIN US.

      Ouklip - 2012-04-14 21:54

      What about Bill Maher. Why only the rightwing radio hosts.

  • jeffwburdick - 2012-04-14 05:03

    If the GOP is serious about winning the war on women, they need to step up their brainstorming. To get them started, here’s my leading suggestion: hire David Beckham to host GOP voter registration drive at baby elephant petting zoos. Runner-up: Have Mitt Romney host “Project Runway” with all the designers using his Mommy Jeans as inspiration. But for some more actionable lessons for the rest of us, check out this funny new YouTube video called “3 Things I’ve Learned from Mitt Romney.”

  • Ouklip - 2012-04-14 21:49

    Hot of the press. The Dems was delt several blows thanks to 1. A friend of Obama insulting Ann Romney, the whitehouse pays their female staff 18% less than men and its seems as if the jobless is back growing.. Obama's campaign took money from a leftwing comedian who called Sarah Palin real nice names.

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