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Thursday, March 22, 2012

GOP Unable to Retreat from Disastrous War on Women

Pro-choice protesters
A new Economist/YouGov poll [pdf] shows Barack Obama defeating Mitt Romney in a head to head match-up. At 47% to 41%, it's a pretty convincing win. Undecideds can't make up the gap for Romney here. While not a slamdunk by any means, it still looks like a good bet.

But the big news out of this poll is that the suggestion that the numbers could've been a better bet for Romney, had his party not decided to launch a war against half of the American voting population. In the Republican War on Women -- an aggressive war of choice, by the way -- Republicans are the ones taking a beating.

Among women, President Barack Obama leads Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney by 55%-38% in the Economist/YouGov poll (Week of 3/17/2012). That 17-point deficit among women right now is too much for Romney to overcome, as Romney leads Obama among men by 45%-43%.

Right now, it is Newt Gingrich and even Rick Santorum (not so much Romney) who are the real lightning rods for women angry at Republicans in general.  For example, among women, Romney is viewed favorably by 36% and unfavorably by 46% of women.  By comparison among women, Santorum’s standing is 30% favorable rating and 50% unfavorable, and Newt Gingrich’s standing among women is 22% favorable-60% unfavorable.  (Obama is 50% favorable-42% unfavorable among women.)

The Republican Party is losing women at a pretty good clip. And the state parties aren't helping things much. Even as Republicans at the national level recognize that they simply must stop talking about women, those at the state level aren't getting the message. Ultrasound laws and attacks on Planned Parenthood are rampant. People who think this is all about contraception and Rush Limbaugh talking about sluts are missing the bigger picture.


In Georgia, a lawmaker arguing in favor of an anti-abortion bill so strict that it would require women to carry stillborn fetuses compared women to cows and pigs. In Arizona, another lawmaker wants women to watch videos of an abortion being performed before allowing them to obtain one for themselves. In Alaska, a lawmaker proposes forcing women to get a man's permission to abort. In Idaho, a legislator suggests that rape and incest are just excuses to get abortions. In Tennessee, language requiring the publishing of names of doctors performing abortions (that could also have been used to identify patients) has been removed from a bill, after much public outcry.

No, as much as national Republicans want to put their losing War on Women behind them, their counterparts on the state level are charging ahead.

Part of the reason for the rush at the state level is Republican panic. 2010 was a great year for Republicans -- and Tea Party types in particular -- but it may be their last gasp. Demographic trends show the voting public becoming more and more those same groups the party has scapegoated over the years, with the power of the white male voter steadily declining. It's now or never, from their perspective. If their political gains don't start collapsing this cycle, they will in the next or the next. The time for incrementalism is over. Any damage they want to do must be done now.

This also explains the GOP's War on Voting. They want to put off the inevitable by artificially changing the electorate with voter ID laws and lopsided redistricting. If Republicans can't carefully choose their voters, eventually -- perhaps very soon -- the voters will stop choosing them.

As a result, national Republicans can't shut down the War on Women. The slow eroding of Roe v. Wade, gains in women's rights, and progress toward workplace equality must not, because of looming Republican disaster, be all that slow anymore. As state legislators and governors accelerate their anti-woman work, the Republican candidates may find themselves being forced to support or denounce such measures. Given the stances they've already taken, it's hard to see how that will help them with the electorate. A couple of ultrasound and contraception comments, an endorsement from one "pro-life" legislative lunatic or another, and Romney's 17 point deficit among women grows.

National Republicans are signalling that they want to end this disastrous war, but those in the states will make sure the losing fight goes on.


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