Election 2012: Are You Female? The Battle for Single Moms

Election 2012: Are You Female? The Battle for Single Moms

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(Note: Part two of this piece can be found here.)

Way back in June, on the 12th day to be precise, Joshua Baca, the National Coalitions Director at Mitt Romney for President sent an email blast to supporters reading as follows:

“While we finally reached the 1,144 delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination, we still have a lot of work ahead of us.

The general election means our campaign needs to be more active and involved in every community all over the country. By filling out the short survey below, we will make sure to keep you updated on the latest news and developments in your community.

Please select your gender:
Male
Female

Which of the following groups do you associate yourself with (select multiple answers if more than one applies)?
Students
Sportsmen
Farmers/Agriculture
Hispanic Outreach
Veterans
Social Conservatives
Small Business Owners
Young Professionals
Nurses, Doctors, and Healthcare workers”

At the time, I chuckled over the decision to blatantly call attention to “Hispanic Outreach,” noting the dissimilarity of this descriptive with counterparts such as “Sportsmen,” “Small Business Owners,” “Nurses, Doctors, and Healthcare Workers.” But after watching the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL, and the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC, it dawns on me that Mr. Baca’s email actually hit the nail squarely on the head.

In this election, Democrats and Republicans alike care deeply about the answers to these two questions: Are you a woman? Are you Latino?

It’s not that they don’t care if you’re African American, Asian American, Native American, Middle Eastern American, an American member of the LGBTQ community, etc., it just that they aren’t willing to spend as much time and money to reach you.

How do I know, you ask?

On the first day of the RNC, television and online viewers heard from eleven women and Latino speakers in primetime: Utah Congressional candidate Mia Love, actress Janine Turner, Washington State Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, New Hampshire US Senator Kelly Ayote, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, Delaware Lieutenant Gubernatorial candidate Sher Valenzuela, Texas US Senatorial candidate Ted Cruz, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, First Lady of Puerto Rico Lucé Vela Fortuño, and First Lady hopeful Ann Romney.

And that was just day one. That doesn’t even count…

the remarks given by Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Olympic gold medalist Kim Rhode, former Massachusetts Secretary of Workforce Development Jane Edmonds, former Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, and Florida US Senator Marco Rubio, on nights two and three.

On the first day of the DNC, television and online viewers heard from thirteen women and Latino speakers in primetime: Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, former Colorado Republican Maria Ciano, National Abortion Rights Action League President Nancy Keenan, Illinois Congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth, Arizona mother (of a daughter with preexisting conditions, uninsurable pre-Affordable Health Care Act, and requiring health treatments beyond the lifetime cap elimination ObamaCare achieved) Stacey Lihn, California Congressman Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, President Obama’s half sister Maya Soetoro-Ng, namesake of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 Lilly Ledbetter, Texas Congressional Candidate Joaquin Castro, San Antonio, Texas Mayor Julián Castro, mother of four armed services members Elaine Brye, and First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama.

And that was just day one. That doesn’t even count…

the remarks given by Montana Superintendent Denise Juneau, US House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Maryland US Senator Barbara Mikulski, Miami Dade College students Johanny Adames and Angie Flores, Planned Parenthood patient Elizabeth Ann “Libby” Bruce, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, Executive Director of the Roman Catholic Social Justice Organization Network Sister Simone Campbell, U.S. Small Business Administrator Karen Mills, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, undocumented American, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals candidate, and DREAM Act activist, Benita Veliz, Spanish-language media icon (a.k.a. the Latina Oprah) Cristina Saralegui, women’s rights activist Sandra Fluke, UAW Local 1112 member and Auto Industry Rescue beneficiary Karen Eusanio, former employee at a plant in Miami controlled by Bain Capital Cindy Hewitt, Massachusetts US Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, 2012 DNC Chair, and Los Angeles, California Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, actresses Kerry Washington, Scarlett Johansson, and Eva Longoria, daughter of President John Kennedy, and author Caroline Kennedy, former Michigan Governor , and Second Lady of the United States Dr. Jill Biden, on

…nights two and three.

As I said, in this election, the Romney campaign, and President Obama’s reelection team have their eyes squarely set on women and Latinos.

Ann Romney’s RNC address, not Mitt Romney’s nomination acceptance speech, is more widely credited with the Romney-Ryan ticket’s seven-point gain in favorability among women voters in the week following the GOP convention. The DNC caused the numbers to shift again, but the Republican Party PR machine cut President Obama’s overall lead among women voters to six percentage points during the days between the conventions. The spin Romney surrogates have put on these numbers is the blanket assertion that what women really care about is the economy. But there’s a more intricate story behind these numbers that is rarely discussed despite the number of pundits who pontificate about polls, or talking heads trading hackneyed political horserace predictions.

Romney-Ryan is the first GOP ticket to really zoom in with laser-like focus on unmarried women. Historically, Republicans have not worried terribly about their deficits with single moms, and single women without children, because even in their worst years, the GOP has managed to perform well when it comes to married households. McCain-Palin pulled in 47% of married female voters with children, and 53% of married female voters without children in 2008, while Bush-Cheney pulled in 57% of all female married voters in 2004.

But there has been a demonstrable rise in the number of single female-headed households in the US. Over the last two decades, the demographic breakdown for the fastest growing group these households belong to is, white women, twenty-something years of age, with some college education, but no four-year degree. These are the women, the moms, the heads of household—the female swing voters—most likely to consider themselves independents, and whose allegiances are so evenly divided between the GOP and the Democratic Party, that any shift toward/away from President Obama or Mitt Romney, could tip the scale, and decide this closely contested election.

Obama-Biden currently leads Romney-Ryan with unmarried women, 57% to 32%, the President’s reelection team is determined to maintain this margin, and Mitt Romney, as well as the countless hyper-funded, anti-Obama Super PACs, are determined to reduce it.

As Irin Carmon writes in Salon, “We all know why the Democratic National Convention this week has included a robust and explicit defense of reproductive rights… It’s the same reason why the Republican National Convention last week plopped onstage all the women it could find… The question is, will reproductive rights actually make the difference with women voters? … Polling on reproductive rights is notoriously tricky and depends on how you frame the question, and this election has been an opportunity for Democrats to reframe it… And with a little assist from Todd Akin and Paul Ryan, more Americans have had an opportunity to hear which party officially wants abortion to be legal under no circumstances. In any case, Democrats don’t have to speak to all women; they have to energize a base amid stated fears of an enthusiasm gap, and they have to get single women who stayed home in 2010—and who had voted for Barack Obama over John McCain 70 percent to 29 percent…

Democrats have embraced the opportunity to do something they haven’t done on a national level in a while: reframe the debate… Republican overreach has given Democrats an opening to argue that reproductive rights are about more than just abortion… and that abortion restrictions are about a profound contempt for women’s decision-making and autonomy… This has been enabled by the convergence of clueless conservative men, from Rush Limbaugh [who called Sandra Fluke a ‘slut’ and a ‘prostitute’ because she testified before Congress in support of mandated insurance coverage of contraceptives] to [Missouri US Senate candidate] Todd Akin [who said women couldn’t get pregnant from ‘legitimate rape’]… Whether the Obama administration was setting a trap for Republicans in the primary debate by unveiling its women’s health provisions, including mandated coverage for contraception, or throwing a bone the way of pro-choice groups after the bitter Plan B capitulation, the timing was brilliant. Activists had a case to make for Obama to women who already care about this stuff but might have been losing enthusiasm for the president, throwing the attempted defunding, both public and private, of Planned Parenthood into the mix, and Republicans were plausibly coming for your birth control…

Obama has never much wanted to talk about abortion… but there he was in April, criticizing abortion restrictions that don’t do that badly in public opinion polls when they’re framed as ‘informed consent.’ ‘Now we’ve got governors and legislatures across the river in Virginia, up the road in Pennsylvania, all across the country saying that women can’t be trusted to make your own decisions,’ he said at a Women’s Leadership Conference. ‘They’re pushing and passing bills forcing women to get ultrasounds, even if they don’t want one. If you don’t like it, the governor of Pennsylvania said you can ‘close your eyes.’ It’s a quote. It’s appalling. It’s offensive. It’s out of touch. And when it comes to what’s going on out there, you’re not going to close your eyes. Women across America aren’t closing their eyes’… [President Obama was] seizing the moral high ground… connecting abortion rights to a broader issue of women’s freedom and not just of women’s privacy—it was unmistakable, and it was unflinching. This is a strategy that can backfire, of course… But, needless to say, winning will trump ideological purity… The question is, will reshaping the debate work?”

Romney campaign surrogate, former California US Senate candidate, and former Hewlett-Packard CEO, Carly Fiorina, has been making the rounds in the big name media circuit, stating that President Obama and the Democratic Party “treat women as a special interest group,” as “single-issue voters,” instead of acknowledging that “women care about every issue.” Such an argument would likely prove immensely effective in making inroads with the single white female heads-of-households, twenty-something years of age, with some college education, but no four-year degree, both the Democratic Party and GOP are working hardest to covet. But unfortunately, any compelling argument made by a Republican woman in the public sphere, is ultimately undermined by the blecch-inducing utterances of a Republican man.

I’m looking at you, Jase Bolton from Michigan, Todd Gilbert from Virginia, Tom Corbett from Pennsylvania, Cliff Stearns from Florida, Todd Akin from Missouri, Paul Ryan from Wisconsin… Etc. Etc. Etc.

6 COMMENTS

  1. […] decades, the demographic breakdown for the fastest growing group these households belong to is: White women, twenty-something years of age, with some college education, but no four-year degree. 40% of all female-headed households live in poverty. Women are poorer than men regardless of […]

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