Amid stories of dissatisfaction among high-level female staffers in the White House, it’s easy to extrapolate that Obama has a “women” problem.
Except that he doesn’t.
Women also rate Obama higher than men on his handling of the economy, jobs and the budget deficit in the Post/ABC poll
Ditto the latest Gallup weekly tracking poll that shows President Obama’s job approval at 43 percent among women while it stands at 36 percent among men.
And, according to the 2008 exit poll, Obama took 56 percent of the vote to Arizona Sen. John McCain’s (R) 43 percent — the largest gender gap enjoyed by a Democratic presidential candidate since Bill Clinton beat former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole (R) by 16 points in 1996.
None of these data points should be terribly surprising as women tend to be more likely than men to self-identify as Democrats, a fact that makes them more likely to be broadly supportive of President Obama and his agenda. In the September Post/ABC poll, for example, 38 percent of women identified themselves as Democrats while just 28 percent of men did the same.
All of that’s not to say, however, that these sorts of stories don’t have an impact — because they do.
Obama and his senior political team are struggling mightily at the moment to find a way to navigate a set of poll numbers that would make any candidate cringe. Historical lows are being set, seemingly by the day, when it comes to the number of people who believe the country is off on the wrong track and Obama’s approval ratings are also at the lowest of his term.
The “hostile workplace for women” storyline then is yet another complication for a White House that has had a difficult time staying on message — or picking a message and sticking to it — in recent months.
It’s also something that must be dealt with swiftly and effectively or it could become a far larger story with broader political implications.
(It’s not an accident that the White House has pushed back repeatedly and aggressively against the allegations made in Ron Suskind’s “Confidence Men”, which is due out today.)
It will be worth watching the Gallup weekly tracking numbers to see if Obama experiences any sort of dip among women as the Suskind book and the allegations of an unfriendly workplace for women penetrate into the collective political consciousness. (Of course, it’s also possible that the story never rises to that level and is forgotten in a week’s time — an ideal scenario for the White House.)
But, at the moment, there is no evidence of a softness in Obama’s numbers among women. The White House would clearly like to talk about almost anything other than this storyline — even the economy! — but it’s not a long term threat to the president’s standing among female voters. At least not yet.