Women are critical in this election, and the gender gap is currently closing in the wake of Mitt Romney’s debate performance. So Barack Obama and Joe Biden should take a moment to watch Elizabeth Warren’s hard hitting attack on Scott Brown over women’s issues at last night’s Massachusetts Senate debate. Take careful notes, guys:
Warren said: “He’s had exactly one chance to vote for equal pay for equal work. And he voted No. He had exactly one chance to vote for insurance coverage for birth control and other preventive services for women. He voted No. And he had exactly one chance to vote for a pro-choice woman from Massachusetts to the United States Supreme Court. And he voted No. Those are bad votes for women. The women of Massachusetts need a Senator they can count on not some of the time, but all of the time.”
A bit later, Warren referenced her own daughters and granddaughters, and pulled it all together: “This is about their future — and I want to be blunt. We should not be fighting about equal pay for equal work, and access to birth control, in 2012.”
Joe Biden and Barack Obama might consider saying the same thing. Paul Ryan voted against the Lily Ledbetter Act. Romney has said he supports equal pay in principle but has refused to say whether he’d have signed that law. Ryan and Romney supported the Blunt Amendment, which would allow insurers and employers to deny coverage for birth control if they find it morally objectionable. Romney does not oppose birth control, but he would defund Planned Parenthood, which provides reproductive health care to millions of women. Romney has vowed to govern as a “pro life president,” which would presumably impact his choice of Supreme Court nominees.
Two constituencies that will be absolutely critical are unmarried and blue collar white women. Research suggests that Obama failed at the debate partly because he didn’t speak to the economic concerns of unmarried women, a key component of his coalition. Meanwhile, noncollege white women — economically pinched “waitress moms” — have emerged as key drivers of Obama’s leads in the battleground states, and will be critical to Obama’s hopes of keeping Romney’s share of the white vote below what he needs to win. As Ron Brownstein notes, many of these women view women’s health issues as “practical pocketbook concerns.” Equal pay and women’s health care are economic issues, and if Obama and Biden can successfully drive home the GOP ticket’s positions on them in upcoming debates, it could resonate among these critical constituencies.
Warren’s dramatization of the importance to women of politicians’ stances on these issues — and her casting of the GOP positions on them as anathema to our daughters’ futures and out of step with the 21st Century — seem like a decent model in this regard.