Feature

Romney: A widening gender gap

Mitt Romney has fallen behind among female voters by a stunning 18 points.

The Republican Party has a serious woman problem, said Steve Kornacki in Salon.com. A new USA Today/Gallup poll of 12 swing states found that while the GOP’s presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney, has a slight lead over President Obama among men, 48 to 47 percent, he has fallen behind among female voters by a stunning 18 points. That yawning gender gap gives Obama an overall lead of 51 to 42 percent in the battleground states—“a dramatic shift from mid-February, when the same poll put Romney ahead of Obama by 2 points.” Is anyone really surprised? said Markos Moulitsas in The Hill. Republicans just spent a month attacking the idea that contraception should be covered by health plans. Romney has called Roe v. Wade “one of the darkest moments in Supreme Court history,” and has pledged to pull federal funding from Planned Parenthood, though one in five American women have gotten health care from the service. By pandering to the GOP base, Romney has set himself up for an electoral backlash from tens of millions of “enraged and highly motivated women.”

The recent polling looks bad, said David Paul Kuhn in RealClearPolitics.com, but the media always exaggerates poll trends. Romney was trailing Obama among women even before the contraception debate erupted. It’s true that he has no chance of winning in November if his support among women remains at 37 percent. But “early head-to-head polls are not historically predictive.” Some 37 percent of women supported George W. Bush in a February 2000 poll, but he claimed 43 percent on Election Day. It’s not too late for Romney to win women back; he should play down the Planned Parenthood and abortion talk, and focus on the economy, gas prices, and the deficit. “Many issues that rally feminist groups—abortion, for example—do not drive the votes of most women.”

Romney is keenly aware of his problem with women voters, said Molly Ball in TheAtlantic.com. That’s why he has been deploying his “charming wife, Ann, to do women’s outreach.” Her message is “how concerned women are about the deficit.” The good news for Romney, said William McGurn in The Wall Street Journal, is that in the USA Today/Gallup poll, women ranked birth control as the last of their national priorities. The bad news? “His inability to generate much excitement among women appears related to a general inability to generate much excitement among anyone.”

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