CHARLOTTE – “I’m a big fan,” Beth Gregg said of presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. “I wanted more information on his positions” — on health-care reform, taxes and all the other issues important to the Charlotte financial planner and mother of three. Still, Gregg, 52, said she favored Romney, and reached to
shake his hand.
The politics behind a gender gap that shows Obama running close with voters in general but with a huge lead among women doesn’t mean a lot to Gregg, she said. If government intrudes much more into personal decisions, “the women of the country will storm Washington.” She is confident of that.
That was the practical view of many of the women who came here to hear Romney speak on Wednesday.
A number of women said Romney is a moderate at heart who doesn’t really believe all of the things he said during a primary fight against more conservative challengers.
Linda Jones, for example, said she doesn’t buy all the talk of a GOP “war on women” over health-care options, contraception coverage, limits on abortion rights or anything else. “I’ve never felt my rights have been infringed upon.”
The immediate past president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Republican Women is praying that the Supreme Court strikes down the Affordable Care Act and looks forward to a Romney presidency. “The confidence and optimism when you see and hear him” remind her of Ronald Reagan, she said.
In an “I’m a Mom-ney” T-shirt she said was her husband’s idea, Janet Eberle of Cornelius, N.C., said she didn’t believe the scuffle between Hilary Rosen and Ann Romney signaled Democrats’ disdain for stay-at-home mothers.
She’s a working mother herself, with two part-time jobs – preschool teacher and customer service worker at a supermarket. “You have to provide for your family, to do what you can with what you’ve been given,” Eberle, 51, said. “I know what it’s like to struggle.”
She acknowledged positive change in the economy, too, but said she believed it hasn’t changed enough, “not in my age range.” The registered Republican voted for John McCain in 2008 and will vote for Romney this year with no worries about the conservative social stands he has taken in the primary season. “We say a lot of things — a smart politician has to.”
Her friend and fellow teacher, Anna Quackenbush, a registered Democrat who is “open-minded,” agreed, and said Romney “is going to have to come back to the center.” She also said she doesn’t think women’s rights will be an issue in the general election.
“I’m 56; nobody can tell me what to do.” She said she voted for Obama four years ago, “worked for his campaign,” but does not feel he has effectively handled the Congress. Her heart and her head are pulling her in different directions this year, she said.
The leader of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte College Republicans was not able to get into the packed room to hear Romney speak, but knew his talking points perfectly.
Regi Simpson, 21, cited Romney’s experience in the private sector. “He will run our country like a business.” Obama, she said, is changing America, but not for the better. “We’re not the E.U.” The political science major is opposed to abortion rights. Of insurance coverage for contraception, she said, “We can’t pay for everything.”
Another woman in the crowd, Pam Waller, said a President Romney would “need to tax people who have piles of money and have ways to get around it.” But Waller, whose first cousin attended Cranbrook School in Michigan with Romney, said she “feels like I’ve known him forever” though they’ve never met.
And that personal touch, plus his business experience, have won her vote, she said.
Waller said women’s health choices are “personal.” It shouldn’t be a government decision, “a Democratic or Republican thing,” and “I don’t think they’ll be able to change it,” no matter what any Republican has said. “There would be too much public outcry.”
Turns out, Romney’s reputation as someone who knows how to work several sides of an issue could work to his advantage with female voters looking for reasons to support him.
Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning multimedia journalist in Charlotte, is a contributor to The Root, Fox News Charlotte, NPR, Creative Loafing and Nieman Watchdog blog. She has worked at The New York Times, Charlotte Observer and as national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter: @mcurtisnc3.