Republicans think they can lure women voters by talking about the economy. But women’s groups are talking about the economy, too — and they think their message is winning out.
A group of women’s rights organizations jointly endorsed President Obama for re-election at the National Press Club in Washington D.C Wednesday morning. The National Organization for Women, Feminist Majority, the National Congress of Black Women and U.S. Women Connect all stressed that the stakes are high and the contrast between the 2012 candidates is stark.
The various groups cited a host of issues including jobs, health care, reproductive rights and judicial appointments on which they trust Obama’s leadership. But they promised to also go toe to toe with Romney even in his comfort zone — the economy.
“We are going to be fully engaged on talking about the economy and how Mitt Romney is a job killer and in particular is a job killer for women,” Terry O’Neill, president of NOW, told TPM after the announcement.
O’Neill described a two-pronged strategy to support the president, which includes both educational outreach about the economy and on-the-ground voter outreach.
Republicans have taken the same approach to courting women voters as they have to every other cohort — pointing out the economic suffering over the last four years and pinning it on Obama’s inability to get the economy going again. That was the Romney campaign’s response to Democrats “war on women” this spring, and on Wednesday, American Crossroads revived the line of attack in a new web video. “There is a war on women in America,” an email from the super PAC reads, “and it’s being waged by President Obama’s job-killing economic policies.”
O’Neill said Wednesday that she’s looking forward to challenging that message. She counters that women’s employment has taken a hit largely due to local government layoffs, and a high concentration of those layoffs have taken place under Republican governors.
“If you look at those layoffs, fully 28 percent of them happened in Texas. More than 40 percent — another 40 percent — happened in those states that were taken over by the tea party in the 2010 elections: Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Florida, Pennsylvania,” O’Neill said. “Those are the very leaders that Mitt Romney is promoting as people that he thinks they’ve got all the right ideas. … So yeah, I mean, bring it. I really want to have that conversation with his campaign.”
But more than a counter-argument, women’s groups believe they they have the upper-hand when it comes to the economy despite the current economic climate.
Also on Wednesday, EMILY’s List, the PAC dedicated to electing pro-choice, Democratic women, laid out its second series of research on independent women voters — a key swing demographic in the election. They too appeared unafraid of the GOP’s strategy.
We’re not “terribly worried,” said Lisa Grove, a progressive pollster conducting polls and focus groups for EMILY’s List. “When you look at just the numbers around the economy and the big advantage Democrats have, I think it’s going to be very hard for Republicans to make their case.”
Grove’s numbers show that independent women in swing states largely trust Democrats over Republicans when it comes to the economy.
By wide margins, independent women see Republicans as protecting “the rich and big corporations” while, by equally large margins, Democrats were seen as “[C]ommitted to holding millionaires and billionaires accountable for paying their fair share” and “[W]orking to build an economy that works for the middle class,” according to the EMILY’s List presentation.
EMILY’s List released an ad based on its research Tuesday, trumpeting Wisconsin hopeful Tammy Baldwin as someone who is not beholden to special interests.
“If women are saying Obama has hurt them, they wouldn’t bestow on [Obama] and Democrats all of these indicators,” Grove said.
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.