Quote of the Day:

But like all good gimmicks, the war on women had a limited shelf life.

-Jonathan S. Tobin in Commentary

The “war on women” rhetoric, according to which Republicans hate woman, helped the Democrats in 2012. We’ve already noted on Inkwell that the strategy isn’t playing as well in 2014.

Interestingly, the Democrats were sure that the “war on women” would be especially beneficial to them in socially liberal Colorado. The “war on women” was going to be a cornerstone of a winning campaign for Democratic Senator Mark Udall to retain his seat. The Democrats hoped that GOP challenger Cory Gardner would turn out to be like Todd Akin, whose comments on “legitimate rape” cost the GOP a seat it should have won.

Gardner didn’t turn out to be Akin, yet, as Jonathan Tobin points out in Commentary, the Democrats didn’t rethink their strategy. Instead they intensified the “war on women.” The upshot is that the Democrats have tacitly admitted in Colorado that, when it comes to ideas, they are bankrupt. It’s WoW or nothing.

The polls show a tight race, and in a surprise move the state’s stalwart, Democratic-leaning newspaper the Denver Post endorsed Gardner. There were numerous reasons to endorse Gardner over Udall, but, as Tobin points out, the endorsement signifies that the reign of the "war on women" may be drawing to a close:

The country is deeply divided on social issues but, as they always have in the past, most voters are willing to agree to disagree on abortion provided the positions of candidates are rooted in principle and tempered by common sense. Gardner’s support of over-the-counter birth control is not only, as the Post points out, proof that he isn’t out to ban contraception. It’s also a sensible proposal that would eliminate the need for the government to attempt to force religious employers to pay for free birth control coverage in violation, as the Supreme Court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case, of their First Amendment rights of free exercise of religion.

The paper’s defection from the lockstep liberal smears of Republicans may be a watershed moment in American politics.

After years of ignoring their responsibility to govern, Democrats may be belatedly learning that even some of their usual cheerleaders are no longer willing to acquiesce, let alone participate in their ad hominem attacks on Republicans. The war on women had a good run as a bulletproof method for rallying single female voters to the Democrats.

The successful deployment of the “war on women” rhetoric is one reason we are now in the second term of President Obama, who carried the female vote by 11 points (thanks to single women—married women went for the Republican). It is unfortunate that this smear had such a long life, but as somebody who works for an organization that has been in the forefront of debunking this smear and giving a more accurate portrayal of the position and opportunities for women in U.S. society, I am glad to see it becoming ineffectual. For the time being. I doubt that Democrats will drop it until it becomes even more ridiculous than it is in Colorado now. It has been too valuable to them. Think about it: the U.S. response to ISIS, Ebola, and our floundering economy would likely be vastly different if it hadn’t been for the effectiveness of the “war on women” lie.  

THIS JUST IN: In a counterintuitive piece at National Review Ramesh Ponnuru argues that the things the GOP does to close the gap (fuzzy ads, more women candidates, etc.) are marginal, but he praises the call by some Republicans for over-the-counter contraception. The Democratic response exposes their hypocrisy on the “issue” of contraception. I won't attempt to summarize the article, but it is well worth reading.