Commentary Magazine


Topic: women voters

Can the GOP Lower the Gender Gap?

Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus had a point when in an appearance on MSNBC’s Daily Rundown, he pushed back at the story published by Politico in which the publication spun two webs that showed the GOP continuing to trail the Democrats among female voters as proof that it was “stuck in the past.” Though Priebus is right to note that the generally negative view of the Democrats held by women is nearly as bad as that of Republicans, there’s no denying that a gender gap exists. More to the point, there’s little use denying that it’s bound to get worse in 2016.

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Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus had a point when in an appearance on MSNBC’s Daily Rundown, he pushed back at the story published by Politico in which the publication spun two webs that showed the GOP continuing to trail the Democrats among female voters as proof that it was “stuck in the past.” Though Priebus is right to note that the generally negative view of the Democrats held by women is nearly as bad as that of Republicans, there’s no denying that a gender gap exists. More to the point, there’s little use denying that it’s bound to get worse in 2016.

As Preibus noted, the internal polls conducted by two conservative PACs—Crossroads GPS and American Action Network—showed that 49 percent of women view Republicans negatively while 39 percent think the same of Democrats. That’s a clear gender gap and a big advantage for Democrats in any election. But the spin on the poll coming from Politico seemed to center on the notion that the GOP was hopelessly out of touch with most women who viewed them as insensitive to their issues. While carping about the characterization of his party, he acknowledged that the problem is serious and he also asserted that it was not insurmountable.

There are two conclusions to be drawn from this situation.

The first is that although the Democrats’ charge that Republicans are waging a “war on women” is the lowest kind of specious partisan propaganda, it has worked. Though married women still support Republicans, the problem for the GOP is that the far more numerous unmarried women have bought into the Democrats’ tactics, especially in the Middle West and Northeast.

Why? Because many young, liberal women have accepted the notion that conservative positions on economic issues and the need for smaller government hurts them. Moreover, to a generation of women who have come to believe the unfettered right to abortion and free contraception from their employers is essential to their well being, GOP arguments are bound to fall flat.

The second is that if Hillary Clinton is, as is likely, the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, nothing Preibus and the Republicans do is likely to narrow the gender gap.

So should the GOP give up? No. But its expectations must be tempered by a knowledge that the Democratic advantage with the mainstream media and in the world of popular culture are going to make it very hard to erase their deficit until they find national candidates who can appeal to more women.

The RNC’s proposed response to the problem makes sense. It advocates seeking to “neutralize” Democratic arguments about “fairness” by pointing out that the best way to deal with inequality is to reform liberal big government programs that encourage the dependency that hurts poor families and women. It also correctly advises that the only way for a pro-life party to deal with abortion is to acknowledge the disagreement and then move on to other issues and to rely on the fact that many women have concerns about abortion and that even most supporters of it don’t view it as a litmus test issue. Yet if a GOP consultant quoted by Politico is right to say that many women view Republicans as the “old, white, right, out of touch” party, then it is necessary for the GOP to put forward younger, diverse candidates who can appeal to more voters.

That’s easier said than done, but it’s also just as obvious that what Republicans need to do is to recruit more female candidates. That’s something the party has done better in recent years and it can cite successes such as New Mexico’s Governor Susana Martinez, New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers from Washington to prove it. But, as with the need to get more visible Hispanics on the GOP line, the need for more female GOP leaders must become a priority rather than an afterthought.

For all of the negative poll numbers about women voters, Republicans need not be afraid of waging a war of ideas against a Democratic Party that has staked its future on returning to the failed liberal patent nostrums of the 1960s. But, as Preibus rightly pointed out, it is not enough to have good ideas. You’ve got to take them to the voters and articulate them in a way that can be understood and supported. Politics is, above all, a test of personalities, and until the voters start associating the GOP more with the likes of Martinez, Ayotte, and Rogers than with Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, they’re not likely to change their minds.

Which is why the impending lesson of 2016 ought to be concentrating the minds of Republicans on promoting conservative women to leadership positions in the years to come. Hillary Clinton’s presence at the top of the Democratic ticket is such a powerful symbol that it is bound to offset most of the GOP’s efforts to make headway with women. Yet that makes it all the more important for a party that already has a gender gap to ensure that Republican women aren’t tokens or outliers but equal partners in promoting conservative ideas.

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Dems Fear Losing Women to Romney

Today’s USA Today/Gallup swing state poll is the latest sign that Mitt Romney is cutting into President Obama’s lead with women. The candidates are now in a virtual tie, even though Obama had a major advantage with women voters for most of the election:

Mitt Romney leads President Obama by four percentage points among likely voters in the nation’s top battlegrounds, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, and he has growing enthusiasm among women to thank.

As the presidential campaign heads into its final weeks, the survey of voters in 12 crucial swing states finds female voters much more engaged in the election and increasingly concerned about the deficit and debt issues that favor Romney. The Republican nominee has pulled within one point of the president among women who are likely voters, 48%-49%, and leads by 8 points among men.

Chicago is on edge, as you can see from this memo by Obama strategist Joel Benenson, which attacks Gallup for “defying trends” and “distorting the composition of likely voters”:

The latest Gallup/ USA Today Battleground survey showing President Obama and Governor Romney tied with women in battleground states (48-48) is an extreme outlier, defying the trends seen in every other battleground and national poll. …

Gallup’s data is once again far out of line with other public pollsters.

The memo includes a chart of 14 post-debate swing state polls, which show Obama with an average lead of 10 points among women. But the chart only includes three polls conducted in the past week. It doesn’t include last week’s Times/Bay News/Herald poll in Florida, which found the two candidates virtually tied with likely women voters, a major shift from Obama’s 15-point lead last month. It also doesn’t include last week’s WMUR poll of New Hampshire, which found Romney whittled Obama’s 27-point lead among likely women voters down to 9 points.

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Today’s USA Today/Gallup swing state poll is the latest sign that Mitt Romney is cutting into President Obama’s lead with women. The candidates are now in a virtual tie, even though Obama had a major advantage with women voters for most of the election:

Mitt Romney leads President Obama by four percentage points among likely voters in the nation’s top battlegrounds, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, and he has growing enthusiasm among women to thank.

As the presidential campaign heads into its final weeks, the survey of voters in 12 crucial swing states finds female voters much more engaged in the election and increasingly concerned about the deficit and debt issues that favor Romney. The Republican nominee has pulled within one point of the president among women who are likely voters, 48%-49%, and leads by 8 points among men.

Chicago is on edge, as you can see from this memo by Obama strategist Joel Benenson, which attacks Gallup for “defying trends” and “distorting the composition of likely voters”:

The latest Gallup/ USA Today Battleground survey showing President Obama and Governor Romney tied with women in battleground states (48-48) is an extreme outlier, defying the trends seen in every other battleground and national poll. …

Gallup’s data is once again far out of line with other public pollsters.

The memo includes a chart of 14 post-debate swing state polls, which show Obama with an average lead of 10 points among women. But the chart only includes three polls conducted in the past week. It doesn’t include last week’s Times/Bay News/Herald poll in Florida, which found the two candidates virtually tied with likely women voters, a major shift from Obama’s 15-point lead last month. It also doesn’t include last week’s WMUR poll of New Hampshire, which found Romney whittled Obama’s 27-point lead among likely women voters down to 9 points.

In addition, today’s Gallup/USA Today poll mirrors last week’s national Pew poll, which found Obama and Romney tied with likely women voters. The president had led Romney by 18-points with women in the same poll last month.

Contrary to the Obama campaign’s memo, the Gallup poll seems like more of a continuation of a trend than an outlier. Which may explain why the campaign is desperately swinging at it in a public memo.

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Poll: Obama’s Big Lead With Women Gone

President Obama and Mitt Romney are in a dead heat in the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, partially because Obama’s wide advantage with women last month has evaporated:

One of those times came last month, when Obama held a seven-point advantage. That lead was fueled in part by a 19-point advantage among women, the largest across the set of polls. In the new survey, 51 percent of female voters support Obama and 44 percent Romney, almost precisely the average divide since April 2011.

The Democrats’ war on women strategy may have given Obama a temporary boost with women, but it didn’t last. As soon as the issue dropped out of the news cycle, the divide bounced back to where it was before, which was what some conservatives predicted would happen.

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President Obama and Mitt Romney are in a dead heat in the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, partially because Obama’s wide advantage with women last month has evaporated:

One of those times came last month, when Obama held a seven-point advantage. That lead was fueled in part by a 19-point advantage among women, the largest across the set of polls. In the new survey, 51 percent of female voters support Obama and 44 percent Romney, almost precisely the average divide since April 2011.

The Democrats’ war on women strategy may have given Obama a temporary boost with women, but it didn’t last. As soon as the issue dropped out of the news cycle, the divide bounced back to where it was before, which was what some conservatives predicted would happen.

And that’s not the only troubling news for the Obama campaign. Ed Morrissey notices that the partisan breakdown in the poll assumes that only 22 percent of voters are Republican – an extremely low prediction:

In other words, the shiny-object distraction strategy from Team Obama hasn’t worked out as planned.  Neither has the sample strategy from the WaPo/ABC pollster.  Today’s D/R/I is 32/22/38, which means this model would only be predictive for a turnout model where only 22 percent of voters are Republican.  Just to remind readers, the 2008 turnout split from exit polls showed a 39/32/29 split, and that was considered a nadir for Republican turnout.  In the 2010 midterms, the split was 35/35/30.

If Romney and Obama are neck-and-neck in a poll like this, then the president has more to worry about than it initially seems.

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