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She the People
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Posted at 07:57 AM ET, 03/08/2012

The pillbox primary

It seems time to declare this election cycle the “pillbox primary,” as every day seems to bring a name, idea or concept about women in America that is so vintage it still smells like the mothballs in your
First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy at Union Station in Washington D.C. on Oct. 1, 1963. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
grandmother’s attic.

Forget about sluts, the pill, sluts taking the pill or all-male congressional panels — those offenses are so three days ago. Let’s move on to the image of Ann Romney, Karen Santorum and Callista Gingrich cleaning up after their husbands on Tuesday night.

Ann Romney greeted the crowd in Boston with a genuine smile and an I-get-it introduction for her husband. “Do you know what women care about?” she told the hometown crowd. “Women care about jobs. Women care about the economy. They care about their children, and they care about the debt, and they’re angry.”

Darn right, Ann. Would Mitt mind if we offered you up for the brokered convention?

Or Karen Santorum, who just by standing next to Rick Santorum on stage in Steubenville, Ohio, on Tuesday night told voters there’s more to the man than the caricature he has allowed his image to become. Would a lawyer-turned-neonatal nurse like Karen really marry a caveman in a sweater vest, her smile says. Of course not.

And she’s gone one better in the last week, conducting her first national interviews of the entire campaign season to give voters a better sense of who her husband really is beyond someone who calls college graduates snobs, even though he has a law degree and an MBA.

She also revealed herself to be a keen strategist in her own right, telling CBS’s Jan Crawford that she often weighs in on Santorum’s message and suggested he not get bogged down in the contraception issue, advice he obviously ignored.

“My advice to him was stop answering the question,” she said. “Tell ’em, ‘I’m not going to answer this question. Let me tell you what I know about national security. I know a lot about national security.’ ”

For her part, Callista Gingrich has begun introducing her husband at events and even headlining a few of her own, all with a not-so-subtle message that while Newt has had his problems in the marriage department, now that he’s a devoted to a brainy, blonde French horn player, how bad could he be?

Should this former Hill staffer and very poised woman really have to try to make up for Newt’s spotty track record? No, but she’s doing it with a smile on her face anyway.

There is a very June Cleaver feeling to all of this that seems below the women being pressed into service to do what their husbands cannot — come across as trustworthy, relatable and aware that the 21st century started a while ago.

A better strategy for the candidates might be for them to listen to their wives — or say goodbye to the women’s vote in November. (You do know women make up 55 percent of voters, right?)

After polls earlier this year showed women voters drifting away from President Obama, an NBC/ Wall Street Journal poll this week showed Republicans have reversed that trend.

They are now losing ground so fast among women that they will have a hard time making it up in the general election. Women now approve of the job the president is doing 54 percent to 40 percent, while the president leads Romney in a head-to-head match up 55 percent to 37 percent among women.

It’s hard to think that the last month in Republican politics did not have nearly everything to do with that.

No amount of sending Ann, Karen or Callista in front of the cameras will make women forget seeing only men discuss contraception for women, or hearing Rush Limbaugh unleash a sickening perversion against a female law student, only to be greeted by silence on the right.

The Republican candidates can turn the tide by leading their party in a better direction — with policies that strengthen the country, plans to improve the future for children, and a little respect in the form of telling Limbaugh that his instinct to talk about prostitutes while the rest of us were talking about health care and religious liberty is making us all wonder what he does in his free time.

Maybe somewhere out there is a woman who can help him clean up his mess, too.

Patricia Murphy is an Atlanta-based contributor to the Daily Beast and former congressional correspondent for Politics Daily.

By  |  07:57 AM ET, 03/08/2012

Tags:  GOP primary, Newt Gingrich, Callista Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Karen Santorum, Mitt Romney, Ann Romney, Rush Limbaugh, contraception, women's vote, women voters'

 
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