Politico Arena topic: Will women overlook Romney's 'binders' comment?
Women are one of the key demographic groups in the 2012 election. They vote at a higher rate than men—they composed 53% of the electorate in 2008 and 54% in 2004. In 2008, Senator Barack Obama was able to win the White House largely because of a 13 point margin among women. Senator John Kerry lost narrowly in 2004 largely because the gender gap closed to only 3 points. Until President Obama underperformed in the first presidential debate, he enjoyed a very large advantage among women ranging from 10-20 points in public opinion in many surveys. That gap narrowed in the days following the debacle in Denver.
Governor Mitt Romney’s comment in the second presidential debate that in an effort to find qualified women for his gubernatorial administration he collected “binders full of women” has been panned and it’s veracity questioned. Besides becoming a hash tag sensation on Twitter and fodder for late-night comics, political observers have brought new focus to Governor Romney’s policies on gender. And that focus has revealed positions that are sure to enlarge the gender gap. Mitt Romney’s position on the Fair Pay Act of 2009 (Lilly Ledbetter), the first piece of legislation signed into law by President Obama, has been: I’ll get back to you. His shifting positions on contraception and abortion from when he was a candidate for the U.S. Senate, to when he was Massachusetts governor, to when he was a Republican primary candidate, to when he was a general election candidate, can be described as nothing but Etch-a-Sketch.
But perhaps Governor Romney’s biggest problem is his own party. The modern Republican Party is openly hostile to women’s rights on a number of issues. From opposition to legislation mandating equal pay for equal work for women, to support for legislation in numerous states mandating transvaginal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions, to a Republican Party platform that says no abortions, no exceptions, many believe the GOP is on the wrong—and extreme—side of women’s issues. Governor Romney’s biggest problem with America’s women is being the nominee of a party viewed as wildly out of touch with the mainstream values of a majority of those women. Proudly carrying the banner of Republican Party orthodoxy on gender issues may be fine in a primary battle, but is very problematic in a general election and may well cost Romney the White House come election day.
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