The political skirmishing has intensified this morning over the Democratic campaign on pay equity, and Democrats continue to vow to make the broader push on a women’s economic agenda central to the 2014 elections.

But in many ways, this is about something larger than 2014. It’s about a broader trend that suggests Dems will continue to enjoy a “gender gap” that plays in their favor — even as Republicans don’t appear inclined to address what they themselves have recognized as a serious problem for them. Republicans are absolutely certain they don’t need to sweat Dem attacks over women’s economics. But in a must read, David Hawkings cuts through all the GOP spin, explaining the larger dynamic, and places this year’s Senate races in that larger context:

No matter how many caveats and qualifiers are factored into the calculations, the result from…government and academic studies is consistent. Women are still paid measurably less than men for doing the same work. And the Republicans in Congress are steadfastly opposed to the legislative remedies they’ve been offered for closing the gap. Both truths have remained essentially unchanged for years.
What has changed is the political gender gap, steadily widening and reaching record proportions — to the seemingly obvious and dangerous detriment for the Republicans.
The advantage Democrats have built and sustained with female voters is dramatically underscored by the evolving congressional roster…through coincidence or fate, the path for [Senate] victory will require a collection of GOP men to vanquish some of the nation’s most prominent Democratic women.

This goes well beyond the issue of equal pay. The push on the minimum wage is all about appealing to downscale and unmarried women, as Dem pollsters Celinda Lake and Mark Mellman (who is polling for Alison Lundergan Grimes) have both explained. Dems are consciously trying to offer a women’s economic agenda with a range of concrete policies. Stan Greenberg’s polling shows that when multiple policies (such as the minimum wage hike, pay equity, and Obamacare protections for women) are packaged together, they poll off the charts among unmarried women, who are expected to be a key constituency this year.

Dems are banking heavily on women this year. “The gender gap was huge last cycle, and all signs point to it being just as big,” one Dem Senate operative tells me. “Republicans doesn’t seem to care — their plan is to rely on low turnout to win.”

Even with the gender gap, Republicans have at least a 50-50 chance of winning the Senate. But the point is, here is another area where, thanks to the makeup of the map and the composition of the midterm electorate, Republicans might win big this fall without doing anything to broaden their appeal among voter groups they need to improve among over the long term.

Republicans themselves have discussed the need to improve the party’s appeal among women in future national elections. That discussion often focuses on messaging and the need to avoid saying boneheaded things. Yet there’s an economic dimension here, as well. What is the GOP’s version of a women’s economic agenda? That isn’t a rhetorical question. Do Republicans have one? Do they need one?

* OBAMA’S DEPORTATION STRATEGY HAS “FAILED”: The Post has a terrific editorial arguing that it’s time for the Obama administration to admit that its deportation strategy — by demonstrating the President’s commitment to enforcement — has “failed” to win over Republicans, who continue to refuse to budge on immigration reform:

[E]ven as Mr. Obama’s approach has broken up countless families with deep roots in the United States, it has been politically fruitless…Under pressure from immigrant advocacy groups, which have taken to referring to the president as the “deporter in chief,” Mr. Obama has ordered a review of deportation policy. Any shift toward leniency will prompt more cries of selective enforcement from Republicans. Yet it is the GOP that has helped create and sustain the crisis in immigration policy by refusing, year after year, any reasonable reform. Such reform would recognize America’s need for a steady supply of low-skilled labor and for some sustainable status for the millions of undocumented immigrants who are ineluctable parts of U.S. communities.

This is important stuff. It’s a reminder that the President will likely have little choice but to act if Republicans don’t — meaning their window to place their stamp on immigration reform before 2016 may be closing.

* HOUSE REPUBLICANS MAY TAKE UP UI: Roll Call is reporting that House Republicans are considering taking up the Senate unemployment benefits extension compromise, but only with tax breaks to spur business investment attached. It’s been widely observed that House Republicans feel exactly zero political pressure to move on UI, but Dems are taking this latest development as a possible sign they do feel at least a need to appear open to doing something for the long term jobless.

* CAN HOUSE REPUBLICANS EVEN PASS RYAN BUDGET? The Hill does some whip-counting and find that at least 10 House Republicans are going to defect on the Paul Ryan budget, meaning that if it passes, the margin will be “razor thin.” A number of them are voting No because they believe the Ryan budget does not cut spending deeply enough. This, even though 69 percent of its cuts would hit programs for low income people.

* KEEP AN EYE ON GEORGIA SENATE GOP PRIMARY: Also from the above Hill story on the Ryan budget, this is intriguing:

Three GOP members of the Georgia House delegation are vying to replace retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss, and each is trying to burnish his conservative credentials ahead of the primary. Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey voted “no” on the Ryan plan last year and are set to do so once again. Rep. Jack Kingston, a long-time appropriator, said he is a “definitely lean no” because the budget does not cut discretionary spending to sequester levels or below in fiscal 2015.

A vote for the squishy lefty Ryan budget is a deal-breaker in a GOP primary…

* CHRISTIE STRUGGLES WITH BRIDGEGATE: A new Quinnipiac poll finds that 51 percent of New Jersey voters think Chris Christie was aware his aides had deliberately caused the traffic problems, and 56 percent think the report by Christie’s lawyers clearing him of wrongdoing was a “whitewash.” And while 64 percent don’t believe he personally ordered the traffic jam, only 43 percent say he’s “honest and trustworthy,” despite his straight-shooting, above-politics routine.

* AND THE QUOTE OF THE DAY, OBAMACARE DERANGEMENT EDITION: Jonathan Weisman reports on the Dem strategy of focusing on pay equity, minimum wage, unemployment benefits, and Paul Ryan budget cuts to boost turnout among core groups. Mitch McConnell is dismissive:

“Democrats are doing anything they can to try to change the subject from the nightmare of Obamacare and the joblessness that we experience in our country right now. It’s been almost amusing to watch them talk about anything and everything other than what the American people have on their mind.”

The claim that the “nightmare of joblessness” is the leading thing on the minds of American people is interesting, given that 53 percent of Americans, and 51 percent of independents, want to move on from the Obamacare debate.

What else?