Back when Rick Santorum was still gunning for the G.O.P presidential nomination, it looked like both the candidate and Republican party had major trouble with this nation’s ladies. Santorum’s screeds on abortion, rape, contraception, and combat sure did support the idea that the Right was waging a war on women.
But not-so-slick Rick stepped out of the race, making way for Mitt Romney’s candidacy.
By that time, stats had already been circulating about GOP gender gaps — more women, especially in light of attacks on reproductive health rights, began leaning left. It then seemed like pro-life Romney would further foster this shift, especially with his apparent discomfort toward working women.
Like Santorum, this attitude has definitely been reflected in polls, with Barack Obama besting Romney by 16 percent among women in some surveys.
Thing is, women’s opinions might not matter all that much when it comes to Romney’s overall viability.
Commentators from both sides of the political spectrum have pointed out that the lady vote isn’t that significant.
(Disclosure: To be clear, I think this totally sucks — there is a war on women, so a lot is on the line this election cycle, and it would be cool if we could have a definite impact — but facts are facts and they don’t always reflect one’s wishes.)
That said, here’s what’s up: Ramesh Ponnuru, of the National Review, points out in an op-ed:
“Of the eight presidential elections from 1980 to 2008, Republicans won five (four if you exclude 2000). Republicans carried women, albeit narrowly, three times; Democrats carried men twice. Republicans can lose even while winning men, as in 1996. Democrats can lose while winning women, as in 2004.
The evidence suggests that women are more inclined than men to vote for Democrats, but this gap doesn’t consistently help either party. It isn’t the case that the larger the gender gap, the worse Republicans do. Republicans did seven points better among men than women in 2004, when they won. They did five points better in 2008, when they lost.”
And Harry J. Enten, of the Guardian, echoes a similar sentiment:
“The conventional wisdom says that unless Romney makes up this gap among women and Latino voters, he’s going to lose the election. I disagree. While these deficits are certainly not welcome news at Romney headquarters, they are not the death-knell you might think… In the same Gallup poll that had Romney down 12 among women, he was actually leading by three among men. This 15-point gender gap might seem wide, but this is, in fact, normal.”
Enten argues that Romney could pull through if he obtained George W. Bush’s 2004 election gender spread — when Bush had a small deficit with women and a 10-point lead with men. But, it’s also possible for Romney to stop worrying about women altogether and try to achieve a 15-20 point lead with men, Enten says. “Wherever Romney’s likely deficit ends up among women voters, he can compensate for it among men.”
That the most recent mommy wars battle might have an impact seems sketchy, too. A lot of women want to hear more about fixing the economy than the pros and cons of homemaking, reports indicate.
So yeah…it’s not that women are insignificant in the democratic process per se, but it’s that the power of gendered voting blocs might be greatly exaggerated.