Maddow: Conflicting polls show race for White House ‘unsettled’

Presidential Debate
Presidential Debate

Just 18 days ahead of the election, the state of the presidential race is still at an “unsettled point,” Rachel Maddow told Andrea Mitchell Friday afternoon on msnbc.

The latest polls show varied results: Real Clear Politics and Gallup has Mitt Romney leading, while Nate Silver and Intrade say it’s really President Obama who has the advantage.

The final presidential debate, which will take place Monday in Boca Raton, Fla., focuses on foreign policy and could have a major impact on the race. “Nobody thinks that foreign policy is the central issue of the campaign,” Maddow said, adding that it could become a central issue as the race approaches the finish line, particularly the attacks in Benghazi in September.

“I think the president needs to talk about Benghazi in a ‘big picture’ way, talk about the fact that this attack on an American interest overseas is a signal of the kind of damage that Americans can suffer overseas in an unsettled world,” she said. “It’s a signal of our role in the world that is very much up in the air, especially in terms of the Arab Spring.”

Mitchell and Maddow also discussed the continuing conversation about women’s issues in the election, and the divided rhetoric between social and economic issues when targeting women voters. On Wednesday, Kerry Healey, a top Romney surrogate, told Mitchell that contraception was “peripheral” to the race.

“The less smart political analysis in our country says that you have to make a choice between social issues and economic issues when talking to women,” Maddow said. She hit on the Romney campaign’s early decision in their campaign to try and avoid questions about issues like contraception and choice, and focus on the economy.

Maddow argued that all of the issues are connected, and that women’s rights tie into the economy–as evidenced by the pay inequity question from Tuesday’s town hall debate:

“[Romney’s] overall argument was essentially that women are a burden in the workforce. It is a pain to have a woman as an employee [because] they have to go home and cook dinner for their children in a way that men never have to do, so therefore his argument is, ‘We need an economy that is so strong that employers will be desperate for employees, and so they’ll be willing even to hire women.’ And if that’s your view of women in the workforce, you’d be better off talking about abortion.”

The questioner, Katherine Fenton, told Newsday she was not happy with either candidates’ answers.