Estimates indicate that women voters account for a little more than 53% of the electorate. Through early April 2012, polls showed that women voters, particularly younger women, favored President Obama over Mitt Romney by a factor of 2 to 1. At the same time, the polls showed that men, especially those who are age-50 and older, favored Romney over President Obama, by 56% versus 38%. On a net basis, the polls varied, with some showing President Obama ahead by up to 5% and others showing Romney in the lead by 1% to 2%.
In recent elections, women have favored Democrats and men, again especially older, white men, have favored Republicans. This was certainly true in 2008 and might have been the primary reason that John McCain selected Sarah Palin as his running mate. So, both Democrats and Republicans know that if the Republican candidate is to win the 2012 election, the so-called gender gap needs to close, not get wider.
Earlier in the year, the Republicans appeared to be doing everything that they could to alienate women voters. Their stances on equal pay, abortion, and access to birth control funding were viewed as a bunch of old, white men setting rules for and dictating to women and, as a consequence, the polls showed a widening gender gap.
Then, the Sandra Fluke episode erupted. Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University law student, sought to appear before a House panel that was considering the mandate for insurance coverage of contraception drugs and services. The intended panel consisted solely of male clergymen. Democrats attempted to get Sandra Fluke added to the panel, but were rebuffed by the committee chairman, a Republican, who said that because she wasn’t “clergy” she couldn’t join the panel. As a result, no women gave testimony to the committee.
Later, Fluke was asked to testify before a panel of House Democrats and she did. Rush Limbaugh, the right-wing radio whacko, ranted and raved about Sandra Fluke’s testimony for several days, ridiculing her remarks and calling her a “slut” and “prostitute” in the process. Women all across the country reacted to Limbaugh’s demeaning, stupid comments. When asked about Limbaugh’s remarks, the responses by Republicans seeking the Party’s nomination for President were, at best, timid and ineffective. Mitt Romney said: “it’s not the language I would have used.”
Following the Fluke fiasco, the gender gap really widened, as even more younger women joined the Democrats, many asserting that the Republicans were engaging in “a war against women.”
Mitt Romney’s campaign has recognized that a big gender gap might be fatal to his presidential aspirations and has attempted to recast the debate away from healthcare and reproductive issues and towards economic issues. The Romney campaign had Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, step up her campaign appearances to address women’s issues. And, while these efforts might have helped a little, they did little to close the gender gap.
And then a so-called Democratic strategist, Hilary Rosen, who was apparently suffering from a severe case of foot-and-mouth disease, allowed her alligator mouth to overpower her canary brain and said that Romney’s use of Ann’s perspective on issues showed how out-of-touch Romney was with voters. Rosen said: “His wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She’s never dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing.” She also added; “There’s something much more fundamental about Mitt Romney. He seems so old-fashioned when it comes to women, and I think that comes across, and I think that that’s going to hurt him over the long term. He just really doesn’t see us as equal.”
Ann Romney responded on Twitter: “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.” She also told Fox News that her career choice was to be a mom and while she hasn’t personally faced financial struggles, she has had to deal with breast cancer and multiple sclerosis.
President Obama also rejected Rosen’s comments by saying: “There is no tougher job than being a mom. When I think about what Michelle’s had to do, when I think about my own mom, a single mother raising me and my sister, that’s work. So anybody who would argue otherwise, I think, probably needs to rethink their statement.
“More broadly, I don’t have a lot of patience for commentary about the spouses of political candidates. My general view is those of us who are in public life, we’re fair game. Our families are civilians. I haven’t met Mrs. Romney, but she seems like a very nice woman who is supportive of her family and supportive of her husband. I don’t know if she necessarily volunteered for this job so, you know, we don’t need to be directing comments at them. I think me and Governor Romney are going to have more than enough to argue about during the course of this campaign.”
Clearly, anyone who thinks that a mother’s job is easy, and not extremely hard work, needs a reality check. The job is 24/7, with no quitting time at five o’clock, and requires a myriad of skills, usually self-taught, including those of nurse, psychologist, dietician, cook, teacher, housekeeper, chauffeur, referee and peace-arbiter, just to name a few.
Later, while appearing on a show in Baltimore and defending assertions that Mitt Romney is reserved and “too stiff,” Ann Romney is quoted as saying: “we better unzip him and let the real Mitt Romney out because he is not.” While this comment might not convince people that Mitt Romney is the funny, engaging, witty, life-of-the-party guy that his wife says he is, it might explain why over-fifty men who oppose insurance coverage for contraception rarely say that insurance coverage for Viagra and other ED drugs should discontinued or denied. And who says there’s no humor in politics?