In Battle for Women Voters GOP Deflects On Social Issues

Aug 31, 2012

Both Republicans and Democrats are trying to position themselves as THE party for women voters. Democrats are blasting the Republican Party for socially conservative positions on issues such as abortion and birth control. But Republicans are deflecting those claims and trying to put the spotlight on the President’s handling of the economy instead.

“It’s the mom’s who’ve always had to work harder to make things right. And it’s the mom’s—single, married, widowed—who really hold this nation together.” 

Ann Romney, wife of GOP nominee Mitt Romney, set the tone for the Party’s appeal to women voters during her speech to Republican convention goers.

“We’re the mothers, we’re the wives, we’re the grandmothers, we’re the big sisters, the little sisters and the granddaughters. You know that’s true don’t you? I love you women!" she said, earning big cheers from the audience.

In 2008, 10 million more women cast votes than men. And 56 percent of the female vote went to President Obama.

“The Republicans need to court the women’s vote. There is definitely a gender gap. Women tend to support Democrats in general and they are supporting Obama more than Romney. So that’s a demographic that Republican’s are very interested in getting," said Florida State University Political Scientist Carol Weissert.

To get those female voters, the Republican Party has a clear-cut strategy: stay focused on the economy and jobs, and away from social issues like banning abortion, and de-funding planned-parenthood. Those proposals have made it into the GOP’s official platform, but Florida Republican Party Chairman Lenny Curry says, just because it’s in the platform, doesn’t mean it’s the focus of the conversation:

“The Democrats have tried to claim there’s this “War on Women”, which is nonsense. Folks have brought up and will be bringing up the Republican platform. And Platforms matter—parties have to have a base to start from and there’s a committee that puts that together, but platforms don’t represent the entire electorate of the party. And this election will be about Mitt Romney’s plan and what he believes. And there not always in 100-percent with the platform and that’s okay. We’re a diverse party" he said.

And strategists say keeping the talking points separate from the platform is a good move for the GOP in its quest to get more female support.

“It’s sad but true that no one pays much attention to the platforms. They’re usually for the die-hard members of the party and the die-hards are most interested in these social issues. So I think they’re pretty safe in the sense that people just don’t pay that much attention to the platforms," said Weissert.

Meanwhile, Republican women are firing back against Democratic claims that the GOP is waging a so-called “War On Women”.

“All the women I talk about, they care about the same things I care about. Jobs. The economy. Poverty is at an all-time low for women. 401,000 women have lost jobs under Barack Obama," said Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi who added that she believes claims that the Party doesn’t support women are ridiculous.

And Florida Federation for Republican Women Vice President Cynthia Henderson says talking about those issues is nothing but a distraction:

“Every time someone brings up the issue of the war on women, which I think is a war FOR women, it’s just a distraction. It’s not important. The President’s role is to direct this county in a very strong way.”  

But even as they try not to discuss such things, every once in a while, the social issues pop back up. Take the recent incident of Missouri Congressman Todd Aiken. He’s under pressure to drop out of his Senate race for saying that quote, “legitimate rape,” rarely leads to pregnancy. Those comments set off a firestorm of controversy and led Republican Party leaders all the way up to GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney to condemn the remarks. Florida Party Chairman Lenny Curry says that’s a conversation that the party can’t afford to have:

“The issues facing us are the economy, the spending and the entitlements. We need to focus on fixing those issues, and I think most people would agree that we can fight these other battles and wars in the years ahead.”   

Curry says he expects the Presidential Race to be tight, especially in battleground states. Mitt Romney needs to win Florida in order to beat President Obama in November. Recent polls like one done earlier in the month by CBS news, found when it comes to the top issues voters care about in 2012, social issues don’t break into the top of the list. The poll puts the economy first. Next up in order are healthcare, Medicare, the federal budget deficit, taxes, foreign policy and housing.