Bell, who is lagging 20 points behind incumbent Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) among women voters, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll, told [the Ashbury Park Press] that his socially conservative views are not to blame for the gender gap. "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 said. "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."
In his infamous "47 percent" video, Mitt Romney told donors that nearly half the country was effectively made up of lazy parasites, but he also made a fairly specific connection between Americans, government benefits, and voting patterns.
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what," Romney said. "All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it."
It wasn't subtle. In the Republican's mind, recipients of government benefits are necessarily "dependent," which means voting Democratic "no matter what." Reality, of course, tells a very different story, but the number of Republicans who continue to think this way has not faded.
Take Republican Jeff Bell, for example, Sen. Cory Booker's (D) challenger in New Jersey. Laura Bassett reported:
The similarities to the Romney remarks are quite striking. Of course, Romney thought he was speaking only to a group of wealthy donors behind closed doors, while Bell made his comments to a newspaper, on the record and focused specifically on women.
That said, if the New Jersey Republican has "done a lot of thinking about this," he should probably ponder it a bit more.
Though there's ample evidence that unmarried women, in general, are more likely to vote Democratic, to assume it's because Dems provide benefits "they need ... to survive" is dubious. It's also possible unmarried women tend to support Democrats because the party supports reproductive rights, pay equity, and a host of related issues.
Bell, meanwhile, believes abortion rights should be eliminated, even for women impregnated by a rapist.
Between this and the wedding-dress campaign, Republicans probably shouldn't count on shrinking the gender gap anytime soon.