On the women issue, in particular, Ann Romney is thought to be her husband’s last, best hope to win over wary women voters.
“I love you, women!” Romney shouted in the middle of her Tuesday night convention speech.
But if her remarks were any indication, Ann Romney’s job is not to expand the Republican electorate by bringing more women into the fold — it’s to make sure women who already support Romney turn out to vote. Specifically, that means reaching out to women who are married, with children.
Romney’s speech was billed as a pitch to women voters, but in reality it was a pitch particularly aimed at “the moms of this nation.”
“I want to talk to you about that love so deep only a mother can fathom it — the love we have for our children and our children’s children,” Romney said. “You may not agree with Mitt’s positions on issues or his politics. … No one will move heaven and earth like Mitt Romney to make this country a better place to live!”
Look into your hearts. This is our country. This is our future. These are our children and grandchildren. You can trust Mitt.
Romney was echoing Republican messaging about fiscal responsibility in a way that would resonate for women with children, who, she says, will have to pay for today’s spending. She reiterated the point Wednesday morning at a Women for Mitt breakfast in Tampa.
“This is [what] so many of the women in this nation have got to figure out, `Am I going to go in that voting booth and vote for my children’s future?”’ Romney said. “The next generation is going to be paying for our debts.”
Romney’s comments are targeted at married women who already have kids, not the millions of women voters who are single and do not have children.
This makes Ann Romney’s task easier: Married women already like Mitt Romney (and Republicans in general). The latest Washington Post/ABC News Poll showed Romney leading President Obama among married women by a 15-point margin, while Obama led Romney among unmarried women by 25 points.
Married women are traditionally more conservative than women overall and well within Romney’s grasp in November. Though Obama did fairly well with married women with children in 2008, McCain won married women overall, as did Bush in 2004.
Ann Romney’s pitch to this select group of women voters is part of a broader Republican approach to beating Obama by locking down traditionally conservative voters. Though the campaign’s overall message is about the economy, they have deployed specific messages meant to win over their core voters.
To seniors, for example, they promise to save Medicare for current retirees while overhauling it for the next generation — though Ann Romney doesn’t mention that part when talking to mothers about their children. Specifically, Romney and Paul Ryan argue that Obama has cut health care benefits for seniors in order to pay for “Obamacare,” which is, according to one of their ads, “not for you.”
And to working-class white voters, who will be crucial to a Romney victory, the campaign is now entering week four of its false welfare attack, claiming that Obama has taken the work requirement out of welfare — which, as some have pointed out, appeals to racial tensions by subtly invoking the stereotype of black Americans living off government checks.
Ann Romney’s emphasis on children, debt and the future seems to be part of that general strategy of turning out the base rather than expanding it.
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.