Meanwhile, the Republican convention skirted the fact that Mitt Romney has been, as Sen. Edward Kennedy famously said, “multiple choice” on abortion. Republicans didn’t mention Paul Ryan’s co-sponsorship of Todd Akin’s personhood bill. And Ann Romney, the convention’s ambassador to women, was unable to rise above platitudes.
No wonder there’s a sizable gender gap in this election. In Ohio, a recent poll found 60 percent of likely female voters favored Obama, compared to 35 percent for Romney. In Virginia, Obama holds a 19-point lead among women voters. And women in Pennsylvania support Obama by 21 points over Romney.
Many of the most exciting Senate races are being waged by progressive Democratic women — Warren in Massachusetts, Baldwin in Wisconsin, Mazie Hirono in Hawaii, Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota. These Democrats can win if they support women’s health while also safeguarding the social safety net.
“Social issues matter in the gender gap,” Carroll Doherty of the Pew Research Center recently told NPR, “but the real big dividing lines are what government should be doing for the poor, the elderly, and the size of the safety net.” Mitt Romney’s callous dismissal of 47 percent of Americans might be just as damaging to the party as Todd Akin’s views on rape.
As polling in this election suggests, good, fair, progressive policies can be good politics — for women, for Democrats and for the country. President Obama will only win if the gender gap holds. Democrats will only hang onto the Senate if candidates such as Warren and Baldwin win. And a focus on women’s economic needs could result in the biggest surprise of all – Democrats retaking the House of Representatives.
If women voters have their way, 2012 will be more than another “Year of the Woman.” It will be a year in which Americans — members of both the 47 and the 53 percent — reject the GOP’s “you’re on your own” economics, and affirm a commitment to one another for a shared, fair, and healthy future.