In the 2012 elections, you didn’t need to be a polling expert to realize Republicans struggled with women voters. After the “war on women” became a commonly recognized phrase, driven entirely by the GOP’s actual policy agenda, Democratic candidates thrived thanks in large part to a growing gender gap.
Republican Party leaders were determined to do better. So far, they’ve failed.
A detailed report commissioned by two major Republican groups – including one backed by Karl Rove – paints a dismal picture for Republicans, concluding female voters view the party as “intolerant,” “lacking in compassion” and “stuck in the past.”Women are “barely receptive” to Republicans’ policies, and the party does “especially poorly” with women in the Northeast and Midwest, according to an internal Crossroads GPS and American Action Network report obtained by POLITICO. It was presented to a small number of senior aides this month on Capitol Hill, according to multiple sources.
The sponsors of the poll matter – the right isn’t in a position to complain about “skewed” results when it’s Republicans conducting a poll about perceptions of Republicans.
Reading the report, it’s clear that neither party in Washington is especially popular right now, but the Politico report added, “Female voters who care about the top four issues – the economy, health care, education and jobs – vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. Most striking, Democrats hold a 35-point advantage with female voters who care about jobs and a 26 percent advantage when asked which party is willing to compromise.”
Asked about the findings, Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus told msnbc yesterday that his party should approach women’s issues with a better “tone.”
It suggests he’s still missing the more salient, substantive point.
Emma Margolin talked to Democratic strategist Maria Cardona yesterday, who said of Republicans, “They seem to understand the problem, at least on a national level. But they seem to think this problem is simply one of tone and messaging…. It goes way beyond. It’s a problem of policy.”
It’s the one thing that amazes me most about all the coaching sessions Republican leaders hold for their members, training them on how best to talk to and about women: they seem convinced that rhetoric trumps policy.
As we talked about in July, there’s no denying that incidents like Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” rhetoric take a toll on GOP support. But the fact remains that Republicans have chosen to present themselves as the party of requiring medically-unnecessary ultrasounds; fighting equal-pay laws; restricting contraception access, closing women’s health clinics, combating reproductive rights, and targeting Planned Parenthood.
The party wants to change how women see the GOP, but at the same time, the party has no interest in changing its policy agenda in the slightest. They shouldn’t be surprised, then, when the polls remain the same.
The issue plaguing the party isn’t spin, it’s substance. The party doesn’t have to be seen as “intolerant” and “stuck in the past,” but to see a shift in “tone” as the solution is to miss what’s actually driving the gender gap.