Are Women Voters Really Abandoning Democrats? Not So Fast
Supporters of President Obama spent much of the week reacting to recent polling that showed Republican nominee Mitt Romney taking the lead with likely voters, especially women voters. Considering the Romney-Ryan opposition to equal pay, contraception, plans to defund Planned Parenthood and stated intentions to overturn Roe v. Wade by appointing justices hostile to equal rights, the question on everyone’s mind was, really? How can this be? Well, there are a couple explanations.
1. Mitt Romney Lies
By now we’ve established that Romney’s pathological when it comes to changing his position. And early in the week he tried to “moderate” his stance on abortion rights by claiming that it’s not an issue that is a priority for him. That’s a lie.
“Mitt Romney is misleading the public about his intention to restrict safe and legal abortion” said Planned Parenthood Action Fund executive vice president Dawn Laguens. ”Mitt Romney has been crystal clear that if he’s elected President, he will work to overturn Roe v. Wade. Mitt Romney’s views on women’s health are far outside of the mainstream, and that’s why he’s trying to hide them in the last weeks until the election.”
Mitt Romney has clearly said in his own words multiple times that he wants Roe v. Wade overturned which would obviously end access to safe and legal abortion. Here are just a few examples:
• In response to a question at a 2012 Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire, Romney said, “Do I believe the Supreme Court should overturn Roe v. Wade? Yes, I do.”
• On the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, Romney released a statement saying, “Today marks the 39th anniversary of one of the darkest moments in Supreme Court history, when the court in Roe v. Wade claimed authority over the fundamental question regarding the rights of the unborn.”
• Romney Believes Roe is “Bad Law and Bad Medicine.” Romney: “I support the reversal of Roe v. Wade, because it is bad law and bad medicine. Roe was a misguided ruling that was a result of a small group of activist federal judges legislating from the bench.”
• When asked if the repeal of Roe v. Wade would be a good day for America, former Gov. Romney responded, “Absolutely.”
As EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock said in a call with reporters, “Mitt Romney knows he needs women to win. And he knows he’s dead wrong on the issues that matter to them.”
Romney’s statements were not “moderations” as Irin Carmon points out, just another example of Romney taking whatever position he thinks is necessary to get votes. And let’s be clear here, Romney wasn’t speaking to his base here. These comments came after his debate bounce and as pollsters found Romney gaining traction among moderate, independent women voters. Romney’s goal, and one in which he largely succeeded, was to create the impression that his position on women’s rights is different than his record. It’s not.
“It’s impossible to believe he’s unfamiliar with the 38 pieces of legislation against reproductive freedom that were co-sponsored by his running mate” Schriock said. “And it’s impossible to believe he thinks women don’t know he’s committed to appointing Supreme Court Justices who will overturn Roe.”
Now that we’ve cleared that up, there is also reason to think that all is not lost with women voters for Democrats.
2. In Down-Ticket Races, Democratic Pro-Choice Women Candidates Look Strong
One key goal for Democrats this election is to hold control of the Senate. EMILY’s List broke down a couple of the key races and found plenty to be encouraged about. In Missouri, PPP shows Claire McCaskill up 46 to 40 with a 7 point gender gap among women voters- a reassuring sign given her opponent, Rep. Todd Akin’s a walking advertisement for misogyny in Congress.
In Massachusetts, Sen. Scott Brown (R) sells himself as a moderate on women’s issues despite the fact that he votes with conservatives to restrict access to contraception, roll back reproductive rights and deny equal pay whenever he can. The latest polls show a dead heat between Brown and challenger Elizabeth Warren, but whether they have Warren leading or trailing, the gender gap is in her favor as women voters.
In Wisconsin, Tammy Baldwin is maintaining a lead against former governor Tommy Thompson. The latest poll has her up by 3 points, with a 7 point lead among women.
These are just the Senate races. In the House Tammy Duckworth in Illinois, Elizabeth Esty in Connecticut and Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona are all proving to be strong contenders in races that could shape the future face of Congress to reflect the women its supposed to represent.
3. So What Does This All Mean?
It means in the final three-and-a-half weeks before the presidential election neither candidate can take women voters for granted, but only one is willing to lie to try and get their votes.
It also means that women voters have an obligation to dig beyond media talking points and look at the candidate’s records on issues that matter most to them. Schriock framed it like this: “Paul Ryan has one of the most severely anti-choice records in Congress. And Romney’s choice to make him his running mate sends a clear statement on where he stands on key social issues that affect women and families around the country.” Schriock said. “Paul Ryan authored budget proposals that would end Medicare as we know it. This is especially problematic for women, who make up fifty-five percent of Medicare beneficiaries.”
As Schriock notes, the extremism doesn’t stop there. “Paul Ryan voted for the Protect Life Act, which grants hospitals far-reaching powers to deny women abortion care, without any exception for emergency situations. Paul Ryan wants to defund Planned Parenthood. This ideological attack would only result in more women losing access to necessary and basic health care. One in five American women have used Planned Parenthood health services.”
The media wants a horse race and the Romney camp knows this and will exploit this any way they can. Our job is to not be fooled by this nonsense and instead focus on the facts. And the facts are both that a Romney-Ryan presidency would be disastrous for women and families and most women voters already know this. Our job then is to take a breath with the polling and get women out to vote.
Photo from Natalie Maynor via flickr.