Obama's Head-Fake On Women

Obama's Head-Fake On Women

By Maggie Gallagher - April 12, 2012

Will chicks dig Mitt?

Or did Republicans blow it by attacking President Obama's decision to impose intrusive new mandates on religious charities requiring the nuns of EWTN, a Catholic television network, to pay for insurance that provides abortion-inducing drugs and contraception to women?

Team Obama would clearly like us to believe Republican attacks on Obamacare's mandates alienated women.

Why let the facts get in the way of a narrative that steers Republicans clear of a winning message?

That's the only thing this rational woman can conclude when I take a serious look at polling data.

The first hint there's something wrong with this narrative is that most of the Obama surge took place only in swing states, as Stuart Rothenberg points out this week in Roll Call.

In late March, Obama led Romney by 9 points in 12 swing states, according to the Gallup Swing State, a reversal from Romney's 2-point lead in late February. An even bigger swing occurred among women under 50, whose support for Obama grew from 49 percent to 61 percent in the same month.

But national Gallup polls among women under 50 show exactly the opposite trend from the Gallup swing state polls: Obama's support actually dropped by 4 points from 59 percent to 55 percent among women under 50 over the same period.

Why would national TV coverage produce big swings only in swing states?

Here's another problem with the theory: If the "Republican war on women" is driving the change in women's polls, why did Romney's support among men nationally drop dramatically as well? Rothenberg notes: "Among men, Romney's 16-point advantage in October shrunk to just 3 points in March."

"I can't explain the different results, and I'm not trying to," Rothenburg concludes.

Let me take a stab.

The swing state poll looks at opinions in 12 key states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

What was happening in these states? Why did Romney lose ground against Obama this spring?

First in many of these 12 swing states, Romney's GOP opponents were airing attack ads on Romney, and Romney was airing attacks against his GOP opponents. Attack ads of both kinds tend to drive down a candidate's favorability.

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign has spent $19 million on media this election cycle (including $3.7 million on broadcast media), and the DNC has tossed in another $10.6 million (including $8 million for broadcast media) in this election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics' According to published reports, they are concentrating their ad buys in swing states.

The RNC has spent just $1.6 million on media so far. Romney has spent $20 million over this election cycle -- and his super PAC more -- but not on ads attacking Obama.

What voters were hearing about Romney on the airwaves in March was all virtually negative. Obama was getting off scot-free because Romney's money was being spent attacking Republicans.

Pundits like to think that what we do talking on TV is the whole of reality. But really, in politics, it's only a very small part of it.

Look, a female gender gap doesn't automatically doom a GOP presidential candidate anyway. According to exit polls, the female gender gap for Obama was 7 points in 2008 (Obama won). But it was 7 points for Kerry in 2004 (Kerry lost). Women were 12 points more likely to support Al Gore in 2000 than men, and Gore still wasn't president.

When Democrats launch a narrative, Republicans get weak in the knees.

They buckle, back off and too often lose because they stop fighting. Obama's head-fake on contraception is designed to persuade Republicans to back off a winning issue.

Man up, guys. When the president decides to force church groups to pay for abortion-inducing drugs, or nuns to fund your sex life, that's a big deal. And it's a winning issue, too.

Obama is trying to distract women and other voters from his dismal record with manufactured controversies. Shame on us if he succeeds.

Copyright 2012, Maggie Gallagher

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