Can Romney close the gender gap?

Updated

On Morning Joe today, Joe, Mika and their guests weighed in on a new USA Today/Gallup poll that shows President Obama leading Mitt Romney by an average of 9 points in battleground states – an 11-point swing in the president’s favor since February. Among women voters, Obama’s lead is a whopping 18 points.

Why the gender gap? It might have something to do with that recent flareup over contraception – which perhaps culminated with Rush Limbaugh calling a Georgetown Law student a “prostitute” for arguing in favor of access to birth control. The brouhaha didn’t do the GOP ‘12 field any favors, Joe argued. As he put it, Republicans desperately need to move away from “issues that offend women.”

“It goes back to what we started saying a month ago, and I know a lot of conservatives get frustrated when I say things like…Sarah Palin can’t be elected president because of her negatives; Herman Cain isn’t going to win; Perry’s not going to win; Newt’s not going to win,” Scarborough said. “Remember my column about crazy never [winning]? I talk about how the GOP always does, always does, always does what it’s done again. And they go with somebody like Romney. And a month ago…I specifically told my party after the president retreated on his Catholic order to take the win and move on and start talking about the economy. I told them that. They didn’t do it; the party has been obsessing on issues that offend women, and the reason why I told them not to do that was specifically because I knew that was going to drive off female voters. So here we are a month later, and a lot of people on the right, even this weekend, are still offended that I would suggest that the GOP try and win elections instead of shooting themselves in the foot and feeling good about themselves and chasing issues that just don’t matter.”

Nor was the Morning Joe crew impressed by Romney’s pitch to female voters. Asked at a recent event about his party’s struggles with women, Romney basically dodged the question. He said he wished his wife Ann were there, because she’d been hearing from women across the country who are worried about the economic issues – jobs and the deficit – that Romney has made the centerpiece of his campaign.

“You can’t just say ‘gee, I wish my wife were here,’” said Joe. As for Mika, her face and one-word response (“yeah…”) (it’s at the 1:17 mark) made pretty clear what she thought about Romney’s response.

Later in the show, TIME’s Mark Halperin sounded a similar theme. The Republican focus on contraception, pushed in part by Rick Santorum, has been “hurting the brand,” Halperin said. And Romney hasn’t adequately distanced himself from it. “He’s either been silent, or he’s embraced the Santorum rhetoric,” Halperin added, perhaps thinking of Romney’s pledge to “get rid of” Planned Parenthood. “[F]emale voters, they’re just turned off by the Republican Party.”

Of course, there’s still plenty of time for Romney to turn things around with women – and if the economic recovery falters, voters of both genders are likely to hold the president responsible. But for now, the Obama campaign has got to be looking at these numbers and smiling.

 

 

 

Can Romney close the gender gap?

Updated