She fixed it and then stabbed a dozen campaign signs into the dirt, including some for Rep. Todd Akin, the U.S. Senate candidate whose recent comments about rape caused such controversy — and who happens to be the local congressman. By 11 a.m. Saturday, Barnes and DeWeese had claimed a corner of a grassy field for the Federated Republican Women of Missouri, 2nd District. Fenton Days, a fair in suburban St. Louis, was underway, and so was their mission to stand for the cause of conservative values.
“Hello, there!” Barnes said to a woman looking at the $3 tins with President Obama’s face on them. “Did you see the Disappoint-Mints?”
In many ways, the two women, and others who would drop by as the day went on, are the audience that liberal America understands the least and that Ann Romney, wife of Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, will be addressing in her speech at the convention in Tampa on Tuesday night: conservative women whose energy and turnout are crucial to her husband’s campaign.
They are women who think that they have in some ways become less liberated in recent decades, not more; who think that easy abortion, easy birth control and a tawdry popular culture have degraded their stature, not elevated it. Though the women here were of varying faiths and economic backgrounds, they were white and bound by a shared unease with Obama in particular and liberals in general, who seemed so often to hold them in contempt.
“So you’re not upset about the ‘war on women’?” joked a man in a golf shirt who stopped by for a Romney bumper sticker, referring to the slogan Democrats have used to cast Republicans as hostile to women.
“Do we look battle-scarred?” DeWeese quipped.
“We’re doing perfectly fine,” said Barnes, who was cheery — considering that she’d recently been called a “monster” and a “blasphemous disgrace,” and had her soul condemned to hell for defending Akin after he said in an interview that in instances of “legitimate rape,” pregnancy is rare because women’s bodies somehow shut it down.
His remarks were quickly discredited by many doctors and provoked condemnation from across the nation, including from Romney. But they found sympathy here in Akin’s solidly conservative 2nd Congressional District.
Barnes, a local Republican committeewoman, told a reporter that if a woman is raped and becomes pregnant, then God has “blessed this person with a life” that should not be taken.
“I didn’t mean a loving gift,” Barnes later clarified. “The whole concept of rape is so violent, so horrific. I was just trying to say — it’s just hard to express that the child should not be punished.”