Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Those swinging single women

Wading into an explosive social issue, Republican Mitt Romney on Tuesday said he would not pursue any abortion-related legislation if elected president.

"There's no legislation with regards to abortion that I'm familiar with that would become part of my agenda," he told the Des Moines Register in an interview posted on the newspaper's website.

That sounds a little slippery on the face of it; "that I'm familiar with".

Romney's statement to the newspaper represents an apparent shift on a topic Obama's campaign has tried to use against him, particularly with female voters. Soon after the comments were posted on the Register's website, the president's campaign pounced.

"We know the truth about where he stands on a woman's right to choose: He's said he'd be delighted to sign a bill banning all abortions, and called Roe v. Wade 'one of the darkest moments in Supreme Court history,' while pledging to appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn it. Women simply can't trust him," Obama spokeswoman Lis Smith said.

As recently as a presidential debate in January, Romney said the Supreme Court should overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that legalized abortion across the nation.

My feeling here is that Romney has slid too much to the left -- aka closer to the center -- for this to be of help to his cause. Update: It only took the campaign a couple of hours to walk that back.

Then again, he may just be divining the polling.

(Democratic pollster Stan) Greenberg told (the Washington Post's Greg Sargent) in an interview that his new research persuaded him that Mitt Romney beat Obama in the debate for a simple reason. Unmarried women — a critical piece of Obama’s coalition — did not hear Obama telling him how they would make their lives better. By contrast, they did hear Romney telling them he’d improve their lives. 

Recall that in yesterday's post, this erosion of support from women was mentioned.

Romney, however, succeeded in communicating with unmarried women, Greenberg says, by prefacing talk of his five point plan with an extended discussion of the economic strain of middle-income Americans — which Greenberg calls an effective “set up that gave his details meaning.”

“When Romney talked about what he is going to do for the middle class, his five point plan, they were very responsive,” Greenberg says. “The president had a lot of detail but didn’t have the set up in values.”

Unmarried women are a key piece of the “rising American electorate,” which includes young voters and minorities and propelled Obama's 2008 victory. “The key issues for them are the suite of economic issues around rebuilding the middle class,” Page Gardner, the president of Women’s Voices Women Vote, who commissioned Greenberg’s research, says. “They are the most stressed and stretched.”

Greenberg’s research also included a national survey, and focus groups in Ohio and Virginia, that suggest a course correction for Obama. The national survey found that before the debate, Obama was doing extremely well among unmarried women, beating Romney among them by 63-24. He held a 19 point edge among them on who would do better on “issues important to you.” 

So Mitt's reaching out with another line to the constituency that will apparently decide 2012: unmarried females in a handful of swing states.

I'd like to say here that I weep for the future for a segment of the electorate that appears to have overlooked the whole War on Women thing, but it just doesn't come as a big enough surprise.

Women -- single women, with children or without, irrespective of nationality -- have had it worse in this economy than anybody. I can't blame them one little bit for reaching for any lifeline thrown near them.

It's a shame they aren't aware of the two female candidates running on a New Deal platform, isn't it?

If Obama -- or more immediately, Joe Biden -- doesn't mention 47% in the next debate, the Democrats could succeed in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

I think they can hold on, but they need to do more than just try to run out the clock. As they say in auto racing: it's the last lap of the Daytona 500; you don't take your foot off the gas.

(Maybe I should look for less sports-related macho analogies.)

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