In 2008, women represented 53% of the American electorate. Four years later, and with the 19th Amendment still intact, Republicans have reason to be concerned about the antagonism between the GOP and more than half of the country's voters.
A new Washington Post/ABC News poll, for example, asked respondents, "[W]hich political party would you say cares more about issues that are especially important to women?" Democrats led Republicans by 25 points, 55% to 30%.
What's more, Karen Tumulty noted the other day that when an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll asked last summer which party should control Congress, women preferred a Democratic majority, 46% to 42%. Last week, that margin had grown to 15 points.
Over the weekend, the New York Times had an interesting piece on women feeling increasingly alienated by the Republican agenda. The lede referenced a baby shower attended by someone named Mary Russell.
"We all agreed that this seemed like a throwback to 40 years ago," said Ms. Russell, 57, a retired teacher from Iowa City who describes herself as an evangelical Christian and "old school" Republican of the moderate mold.Until the baby shower, just two weeks ago, she had favored Mitt Romney for president.Not anymore. She said she might vote for President Obama now. "I didn't realize I had a strong viewpoint on this until these conversations," Ms. Russell said. As for the Republican presidential candidates, she added: "If they're going to decide on women's reproductive issues, I'm not going to vote for any of them. Women's reproduction is our own business."
Obviously, it's a mistake to draw sweeping conclusions from the perspective of one individual, though when the GOP is pushing away a self-described evangelical Christian in Iowa, that's can't be encouraging.
Indeed, the larger point is that we're not just talking about one woman who attended a recent gathering in her community, but rather, Mary Russell isn't alone. In addition to the recent polls, the NYT added that "dozens of interviews in recent weeks have found that moderate Republican and independent women -- one of the most important electoral swing groups -- are disenchanted by the Republican focus on social issues like contraception and abortion."
It's against this backdrop that President Obama's re-election campaign is beginning "an intensified effort this week to build support among women, using the debate over the new health care law to amplify an appeal that already appears to be benefiting from partisan clashes over birth control and abortion."
The gender gap was pretty enormous four years ago. Don't be surprised if it's even bigger in November.