What ‘War on Women?’ Gender gap on par with history

August 24, 2012

Democrats think women are President Obama's ticket to reelection -- especially after a series of controversies over contraception and, most recently, GOP Rep. Todd Akin's comments about "legitimate rape."

And sure enough, poll after poll shows women prefer the president by a pretty significant clip. A new Gallup poll shows him leading Mitt Romney 50 percent to 42 percent, while a new USC/Los Angeles Times poll shows him up 51 percent to 43 percent.

But, in context, that's actually pretty normal.


(Mandel Ngan - AFP/Getty Images)

In fact, at this point, there's little reason to believe that Romney is struggling much more among women than other recent Republican presidential candidates. Relative to his overall performance, it's about par for the course.

Gallup shows Romney performing eight points worse among women than men, while the USC/LAT poll shows him performing five points worse with the fairer sex. And new swing state polls from Quinnipiac University, CBS News and the New York Times show him performing between seven and 10 points worse among women than men in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin.

And all of those numbers are well within the norm, when it comes to recent presidential elections.

According to data from the Rutgers Center for the American Women and Politics, the last four GOP presidential nominees all performed between five and 10 points worse among women than men nationally. George W. Bush, for instance, took 43 percent of the female vote in his first win in 2000 -- similar to where Romney is right now, even with some voters undecided. (Bush notably lost the popular vote narrowly, despite his electoral vote win.)

Republicans also performed seven points worse among women than among men in the 2010 midterm elections, when they made huge gains. In fact, they barely carried the female vote, period.

Much of the so-called "gender gap" is simply the natural order of American politics; women favor Democrats more, while men are closer to the GOP. Even as Republicans might struggle among women, they can make up for it by winning men by a bigger margin.

The good news for Democrats, though, is that women turn out at higher rates than men, so whatever advantage Obama has among women is more advantageous than if Romney leads by the same margin among men. (The Gallup poll, notably, shows Romney leading by the same 50-42 count among men that Obama leads by among women.)

Democrats are rolling out a slate of women to speak at the Democratic National Convention in two weeks, and they expect plenty of focus on women's rights as the Akin saga continues to roll along. The Obama campaign said Thursday that "Hurricane Todd has already borne down on Tampa."

Both parties will cater to women voters because, frankly, they represent more than half of the electorate. And Democrats hope to expand their lead among women with things like the Akin controversy.

But as of now, whatever liabilities Romney has, history suggests his performance among women isn't quite at the top of the list.

Akin spokesman says he's not reevaluating: A spokesman for Akin's Senate campaign said the congressman is not considering dropping out of the Missouri Senate race.

Reports Thursday indicated that Akin was discussing whether to stay in the race with fellow attendees at the secretive Council for National Policy in Tampa.

Spokesman Ryan Hite told The Fix that's not the case, though: "The congressman is not re-evaluating; he is determined and confident as he stated multiple times earlier this week. He is committed to staying in this race."

Romney writes Bain op-ed: Romney took to the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal on Friday to defend his record at Bain Capital.

In the column, Romney points to success stories at Bain.

"A broad message emerges from my Bain Capital days: A good idea is not enough for a business to succeed. It requires a talented team, a good business plan and capital to execute it," he wrote. "That was true of companies we helped start, like Staples and the Bright Horizons child-care provider, and several of the struggling companies we helped turn around, like the Brookstone retailer and the contact-lens maker Wesley Jessen."

It's apparent that Romney is attempting to turn Bain into a feather in his economic cap in advance of next week's Republican National Convention, where the GOP's ability to fix the economy is likely to be the key message.

"I know what it takes to turn around difficult situations," Romney wrote. "And I will put that experience to work, to get our economy back on track, create jobs, strengthen the middle class and lay the groundwork for America's increased competitiveness in the world."

Democrats have attempted to make both Romney's time at Bain and his governance of Massachusetts into liabilities, pointing to layoffs and outsourcing by Bain and the economy in Massachusetts.

Fixbits:

Akin's top strategist talks to the Wall Street Journal.

Capitol Police are investigating a threat against Akin.

The new USC Annenberg/Los Angeles Times national poll shows Obama leading Romney 48 percent to 45 percent.

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) is up with a new ad featuring the endorsement of a decorated Korean war veteran.

Must-reads:

"Obama campaign is depending on a strong ground game against Romney" -- T.W. Farnam and Dan Eggen, Washington Post

"Mitt Romney says plan will achieve North American energy independence by 2020" -- Philip Rucker, Washington Post

"Democrats hoping that Akin’s rape remark will reverberate outside Missouri" -- Rosalind S. Helderman, Washington Post

"Bain documents reveal tax and offshore details" -- Tom Hamburger and Brady Dennis, Washington Post

"No Ron Paul revolution at convention" -- James Hohmann, Politico

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix, the Post’s top political blog.
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