Show them the (wasted) money. Billions of dollars for bailouts, stimulus and pet projects such as Solyndra have led to a $16 trillion national debt. As many women are scraping and sacrificing, they wonder why Washington can’t do the same. The classic question “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” is not a close call. Add to it “Four more years of what?” and stir.
Messengers matter. Seeing is the first step toward believing. And women trust people they like and who seem like them. Sarah Palin rocked the GOP convention hall four years ago as the vice presidential nominee on this combination. Stop saying you are a successful businessman and start further showcasing successful businesswomen, such as Richmond’s Melissa Ball of Ball Office Products, who would flourish and hire in a “Romneyconomy.” Get rid of the “mom jeans” and put some real moms on stage.
Rattle the incumbent’s complacency. One of Obama’s advantages is that he is already in the White House. Politically, female voters often stick with what they know, unless and until given a reason to change. Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush each increased their share of the female vote by seven or eight percentage points from their first election. This formula would put Obama at well over 60 percent, which seems implausible.
Get out of the mosh pit. Negative advertising may work, but women think the nasty back-and-forth of who is the bigger liar is unbecoming of a leader. Hold Obama to his (prophetic) words upon accepting his party’s nomination in 2008: “If you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.”
Be optimistic. Women gravitate toward candidates who seem pleasant and positive. With the exception of 1972, for 50 years women have favored the presidential contender they have seen as more optimistic. Obama cornered this market in 2008 but now seems more gloom-and-doom than hope-and-change. Reagan was not simply a great communicator, he was an affable and accessible one.
Women are not single-issue thinkers or voters. They may like the president, but in 2012, math is a more important subject than chemistry. Obama himself said that if his administration did not turn around the economy in three years, he’d be a one-term president. That’s a promise we hope he keeps, because a political gender gap is nothing compared with a national prosperity gap.
Kellyanne Conway, a Republican pollster, is the president of the Polling Company Inc./WomanTrend. Follow her on Twitter @kellyannepolls.
Read more from Outlook:
Sen. Olympia Snowe on how the GOP can mend its image with women
How the definition of rape has evolved over centuries
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