Democrats were already planning to showcase their bumper crop of female Senate candidates later this week. But two high-profile conservative men — Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and radio talker Rush Limbaugh — have turned a previously scheduled tour of the west by Democratic women into something of a victory lap.
It’s not just on the campaign trail where Democratic women are emerging to take the lead. In the Senate, the fight against Blunt’s failed amendment to the highway bill that would have allowed employers to nix any insurance coverage options they found morally objectionable was led by women.
Call it serendipity, luck or smart politics: Democrats seemed uniquely poised to fight back against Blunt and Limbaugh by putting a cadre of female faces forward.
“No one had any clue that Sen. Blunt would be offering this amendment or that any of this debate would be unfolding,” Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) (pictured above) told TPM Friday. Baldwin is one of a group of women senators and challengers set to barnstorm several western states this week to raise money and awareness for Democrats.
There are more women running for Senate this year than there were in 1992 — the so-called “Year of the Woman” — Baldwin noted, and she suggested that will put Democrats in a good position this fall.
“You can hazard your own guess: Is it a coincidence?” Baldwin said of the number of women running. “Maybe it’s not a coincidence that there are a lot of women running and we feel as though there are so many economic issues that impact women that are being fought right now.”
The western tour had been planned for weeks before Blunt’s amendment and Limbaugh’s attack on Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke overtook the national debate. The group is ready to take advantage of the fortuitous timing.
“I would certainly say that, for example, when you have a panel on women’s health that’s all men called to testify, it does show that a lot of the folks in charge today are out of touch and just don’t get it,” Baldwin said. “I think we’ll probably draw some attention to that.”
A DSCC source confirmed that the Democrats’ deep bench of women candidates and politicians is taking the lead in drawing a contrast with conservatives views on contraception and other issues affecting women. Last week, DSCC chair Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and several other women starred in a web ad aimed at the Blunt amendment and calling for more women to be elected. Here’s what that looked like:
An aide to a senior Democratic woman on Capitol Hill acknowledged that women are taking the lead in the fights against Blunt and over contraception access, but the aide pointed out that women played a big role in the fights over Planned Parenthood funding and abortion that characterized the opening months of the 112th Congress.
“I don’t think this is necessarily a new thing,” said the aide. “But with each one, I think you see the women senators more and more riled up because these attacks won’t go away no matter how many times they get beaten back.”
Update: NRSC Communications Director Brian Walsh told TPM he wasn’t too impressed by the DSCC tour.
“You have to wonder what alternate universe Democratic Party strategists are living in where they are actually bragging about the fact that Claire McCaskill, Heidi Heitkamp and Tammy Baldwin are embarking on an ObamaCare ‘victory tour’ with Barbara Boxer?” he said. “One can only hope that they plan on taking plenty of pictures on their West Coast swing because we will happily share them with voters in Missouri, North Dakota and Wisconsin with the caption ‘If you want more Barbara Boxers in Washington, vote for us.’ Congratulations, great strategy.”