If New Jersey Senate candidate Jeff Bell was struggling with female voters before, his latest comments on the matter will only make things worse.
Speaking with the Asbury Park Press Thursday, the Republican attributed his 20-plus percentage point deficit among women voters to declining marriage rates and single women's dependency on government benefits, something that "weds them to the Democratic Party." Bell trails incumbent Sen. Cory Booker, a Democrat, by 23 points among women in the latest Monmouth University Poll, contributing to Booker's overall 15-point lead among likely voters.
"I've done a lot of thinking about this and looked at a lot of different polls, I think it has more to do with the rise in single women," Bell told the Asbury Park Press. "Single mothers particularly are automatically Democratic because of the benefits. They need benefits to survive, and so that kind of weds them to the Democratic Party."
But wait, there's more.
"[S]ingle women who have never married and don't have children are also that way," he continued. "If you take married women, they aren't that different from married men. So it's really a problem with the decline in marriage rates. The Democrats do benefit from that."
Booker's campaign spokeswoman Julie Roginsky called Bell's comments "misogynistic" and "despicable." But they're just the latest in long list of missteps that have turned women away from the GOP since the Reagan era. In August, an internal report commissioned by the American Action Network and Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS found that female voters viewed the Republican Party as "intolerant," "lacking in compassion," and "stuck in the past." A month later, the College Republican National Committee released an ad modeled after TLC's "Say Yes To The Dress," in an apparent effort to attract young women by dangling pretty wedding dresses in their faces.
Seeking to capitalize on his edge with female voters, Booker has repeatedly highlighted his opponent's socially conservative record on issues like abortion and access to contraceptive care. But Bell's not worried; he's happy with his male supporters (who according to the Monmouth poll also favor Booker 49% to 44%.)
"Even before the gender gap appeared, men were more willing to vote for change," Bell told the Asbury Park Press. "They're more bomb-throwers. Women are more cautious. If you're doing well among men, that is something that an insurgent candidate needs."