The left’s all-out, concerted attack on the right, accusing conservatives of perpetrating a “war on women,” was obviously calculated to target potential – and now certain – Republican nominee Mitt Romney. And the campaign has been wildly successful. According to the most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, Obama leads Romney by a margin of 57-38 percent among registered female voters; Romney holds a 52-44 lead among men. Overall, Obama leads Romney by a margin of 51 to 44 percent.
Obama didn’t do well on many issues in the poll, but he bested Romney by 19 points on “women’s issues” – presumably abortion and birth control.
The “war on women” narrative got off the ground with George Stephanopolous’ odd January 7, 2012 question in the Republican debate, in which he asked the candidates about whether there was a constitutional right to contraception. There was no reason for that question to be part of the debate – contraception has been legal in all 50 states since 1965. But it led off a concerted assault by the left on the right over this issue, culminating in the left’s attacks on Rush Limbaugh for his comments about stealth leftist advocate Sandra Fluke. Now, every conservative who comments on anything any woman does is slammed for participating in this supposed “war on women.”
The media has been complicit in this assault, parroting the Obama administration, which says the same thing. The talking points are distributed via groups like Media Matters, which leads secondary boycotts on advertisers on conservative outlets. And after weeks of this same pounding, women have gotten the message.
Obama has known for months that he was outpolled significantly by Romney among men. He had to get his favorables up among women quickly to outpace Romney’s lead. And he found the easiest way possible: he slandered his opponents. Some of those opponents – Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich in particular – made that slander stickier. But the effects of the “war on women” narrative may fade with time – Romney is certainly the least alienating candidate for moderate to liberal women in the Republican field. As we move into the general election, the “war on women” meme may have significantly less traction than it has during the Republican primaries.