The Democratic game plan for success in the 2014 midterm elections is to “get out the vote” among women. In order to do so, Dems will use a three pronged strategy of promoting the “war on women”: military sexual assault legislation, a minimum wage increase, and the Paycheck Fairness Act.
“Women will determine the Senate,” claims Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster and strategist. “What Republicans are hoping to do is to minimize the Democratic vote among women, and if they can win men by more than they lose women, then they’ll win the election.”
Lake points out that the success of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) in his defeat of Ken Cuccinelli was reliant on the huge disproportion of female voters that he captured. Because women dramatically tipped the scales for McAuliffe in the Virginia governor’s race, Democrats are looking to persuade women–and particularly unmarried and young women–to come out and vote in the fall. The pollster said that unmarried women supported McAuliffe by 42 points. “That’s why he’s governor — it really muted the disadvantages he had with other groups of voters,” Lake insists. Democrats are hoping to replicate this trend in November.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is lending his hand to the fight. On Monday, Reid advocated increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, emphasizing, “Raising the minimum wage isn’t just about helping teenagers earn some extra cash. Two-thirds of the people working for minimum wage are women.” In January, Reid met with Lilly Ledbetter, an equal pay for women activist, to promote the Paycheck Fairness Act, which is expected to move to the Senate committee level next month.
In 2012, Reid placed a Paycheck Fairness bill on the Senate floor, which Republicans unanimously rejected. Consequently, Democrats worked hard at branding the GOP as being against equal pay. President Obama took up the fight in January at his State of the Union address when he emphasized the equal treatment of men and women under the Affordable Care Act: “No woman can ever be charged more just because she’s a woman.” Moreover, he proselytized for universal pre-kindergarten education, a program that resonates positively with women.
Lake says that the military sexual assault issue is one that can gain traction for Democrats because, like their position supporting insurance coverage for contraception, it appeals to female voters even if they are not directly affected by it. The pollster and strategist is confident that Democrats will be all over the “War on Women” theme, hoping to move the election-year narrative away from Obamacare. “Do you show that you get women’s lives? That you’re in touch with their priorities? Are you in touch with what they care about? That is the whole choice agenda, the birth-control agenda, the sexual assault in the military agenda,” she said.
Republicans are not convinced that this strategy will work and still feel they have the upper hand in November. Katie Packer Gage, a Republican strategist who specifically focuses on the GOP’s efforts to appeal to female voters, posits, “Democrats are going to do everything that they can to try to change the subject from Obamacare, and the fact of the matter is in this country, whether you are a man or a woman, you were lied to by this president.”