Author and radio host Michael Medved has a counterintuitive take on the “war on women” rhetoric of the 2012 presidential race.
Medved writes today in the Wall Street Journal that the “war on women” failed in 2012:
President Obama is suddenly upset about the alleged wage gap between men and women, but he's not responding to a national economic crisis. Instead, he is attempting to revive the "war on women" theme that, according to Washington wisdom, helped carry Democrats to victory in 2012 and might do again in 2014. If this narrative were true, the White House could spend the year demonizing Republicans as women-hating creeps, driving women to the polls in November and helping the party hold the Senate.
But the conventional analysis isn't accurate. National exit polls from 2012 show scant success for the war-on-women ploy, and there's no reason to think trotting it out again will help Democrats in the midterms.
I think that the GOP will make a huge mistake if it buys into this and decides that it doesn’t have a problem with women. Knowing how the Republicans operate, I can imagine this happening. “Women problem? Us?” Denial would make a lot of Republicans feel better.
Nevertheless, it’s interesting to see how Medved arrives at the heretofore supposedly overlooked failure of the “war on women.” And there is also truth in what he says—just not the whole truth.
Medved argues that it was minority women who gave President Obama the 11-point lead among women that allowed him to hold onto his job. He writes:
A closer look at the numbers reveals that Mr. Obama's success with the ladies actually stemmed from his well-known appeal to minority voters. In 2012, 72% of all women voters identified themselves as "white." This subset preferred Mitt Romney by a crushing 14-point advantage, 56% to 42%.
Though Democrats ratcheted up the women's rhetoric in the run-up to Election Day, the party did poorly among the white women it sought to influence: The Republican advantage in this crucial segment of the electorate doubled to 14 points in 2012 from seven points in 2008. In the race against Mr. Romney, Obama carried the overall female vote—and with it the election—based solely on his success with the 28% of women voters who identified as nonwhite. He carried 76% of Latina women and a startling 96% of black women.
The same discrepancy exists when considering marital status. In 2012, nearly 60% of female voters were married, and they preferred Mr. Romney by six points, 53% to 46%. Black and Latina women, on the other hand, are disproportionately represented among unmarried female voters, and they favored Mr. Obama by more than 2-to-1, 67% to 31%.
This is all true—and we at IWF have long pointed out that married women, who are less likely to look to the government for security, tend to vote Republican. But this doesn’t mean the “war on women” rhetoric wasn’t enormously successful in 2012.
It is true, as Medved notes, that the President Obama’s 11-point gender gap was about the same as Al Gore’s in 2000. It is also true that Democrats generally carry women (at least single women) in presidential elections. But President Obama went into 2012 with a failed economy: he should have lost.
The gender gap had all but vanished in the 2010 midterms and the Democrats knew that they had to mobilize women to win in 2012. If you believe that Sandra Fluke and organizations such as NARAL were not successful in painting the Republicans as scary for women, then (like Mr. Medved), you’re dreaming. I’ll never forget the lifelong Republican lady I talked to at a party who told he that she wasn’t voting for Ken Cuccinelli in the Virginia gubernatorial race because he didn’t care if women died. This was, of course, not the presidential race, but I think it was a small, anecdotal indication of how well the “war on women” worked.
If the “war on women” rhetoric doesn’t work in the midterms, it won’t be because it didn’t work in the 2012 race. It will be because ObamaCare and other issues trump it and because the phony figures on which the “war on women” is based are at last being debunked. It also may be that, at last, the “war on women” is becoming a little ridiculous. Maybe even some liberal women are beginning to be turned off by this strategy to round them up for the Democrats.
But the GOP should not comfort itself by fondly imaging it doesn't have a women problem. It must take seriously the smear that Republicans are against women. Especially now, when years of efforts to get the truth into circulation are finally bearing fruit.