Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The "War on Women," the Gender Gap, and the 2012 Election



Politico Arena Topic: Will Mitt be damaged by Mourdock's rape comment?

Governor Mitt Romney was already in a bind over his “binders full of women” comment after the second presidential debate at Hofstra University. The gap that he had seemingly been closing among women in this country started to widen after that slip-up. But the latest volley in the “war on women” could blow that gap wide open.

Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s comment on October 23 in a debate that rape is “something that God intended to happen” is as abhorrent and ridiculous a statement as one could utter and just the latest controversial comment on women that Republicans have offered up (hey Indiana Republicans—you sure you don’t want to bring back Senator Richard Lugar, a person as intelligent and respected as any person currently serving in Congress?).

If Mourdock’s comments were an isolated incident, it may not have had an impact. But starting with Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s comments this spring that Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, who testified in front of Congress on the topic of contraception, was a “slut” and “prostitute,” it’s been a pretty tough year for the GOP on women’s issues.

Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin’s comment in August that “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down” has put the modern Republican Party’s views on abortion and women firmly under the media microscope and at the center of the 2012 presidential campaign. Akin has since compared his female opponent, Senator Claire McCaskill, to a dog at a recent fundraiser, and subsequently news has broken that he had been arrested several times in the past at the scene of abortion protests.

And Akin and Mourdock are not isolated cases. U.S. Representative Joe Walsh, a freshman from Illinois running for reelection in a very tight race, said in a recent debate that he was against all abortions without exception, even when the mother’s life was at stake because “with modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance….There is no such exception as life of the mother, and as far as health of the mother, same thing.”

So how does Governor Romney repair the damage? After all, Governor Romney enthusiastically endorsed Mourdock in his senate bid. I don’t think he can at this point. His only hope is that his advantage among men is bigger than his gap among women, a prospect that is highly unlikely.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Romney in a Bind(er) with Women



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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Monday, October 8, 2012

VP Debate 2012: High Expectations and Underestimating the Opponent Can be Perilous


Politico Arena Topic: Could Biden hit Ryan too hard?

There is no question that Team Obama needs a solid debate performance from Vice President Joe Biden in the VP debates. After a week of stories following President Barack Obama’s weak performance at the Denver Debate, a strong Biden showing would help staunch the bleeding. Democrats hope that Biden can land some punches and counter-punches on the Romney-Ryan agenda that President Obama failed to land or even throw. Especially facing the architect of the GOP’s budget, Biden will be expected to take Representative Paul Ryan to task for his plans on Medicare, Social Security, and a host of other controversial policy ideas.

The Vice President has one very large advantage going into the October 11 debate: expectations are very low for him. Known for his verbal gaffes, Biden is neither feared nor respected by Republicans, particularly by the VP nominee himself. Long-time Republican strategist Ed Rollins epitomizes this view when he told Fox News this summer that Ryan “is going to wipe up the floor with Biden in the debates.” However, high expectations and underestimating your opponent can be perilous heading into a debate—just ask Team Obama.

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