TAMPA, Fla. — Mitt Romney’s campaign team believes the election will be determined by women. But it says the suburban moms they’re most focused on winning over don’t care much about Todd Akin and the GOP’s rightward lurch on abortion rights.
“I think to these women, the women’s issues they’re really concerned about are the survival of their family and making ends meet in their household. They’re worried about providing for their kids and what kind of future their kids’ are going to have,” Romney pollster Neil Newhouse said on a panel here sponsored by ABC News and Yahoo Tuesday.
“Those are the issues they’re concerned about,” he said. “And you know what? They’re not really paying that much attention to the nightly news.”
Newhouse and other Romney advisers spoke of suburban moms uninterested in politics but disappointed by Obama when discussing this year’s undecided voter. They’re upset with the economy, the advisers said, but are apparently unfazed by the fight over women’s rights that has roiled the election in the days since Akin made his infamous “legitimate rape” comment less than two weeks ago.
“They’re usually white, suburban women, more middle-aged, married, maybe less than college-educated,” Newhouse said. “They’re not paying that much attention to politics and they’re not paying attention to campaigns yet.”
Beth Myers, the woman who led Romney’s vice presidential search, agreed that the women Romney is going after don’t care about Akin or the stories about the GOP platform, which doesn’t mention any exceptions to a ban on all abortions. More concerning to them, Myers said, are the things that are most concerning to men, too.
“When I go out in the field and I talk to women, they’re very interested in the deficit because they view that as a burden on their kids. They’re very interested in the jobs numbers because they’re worried about their kids being able to get jobs,” she said. “So those are the kinds of issues that we hear the women that we’re looking to, to reach talk about — the same issues that we’re talking to men about to a great degree.”
Night one of the Republican convention put a number of the party’s most prominent women front and center, chief among them Ann Romney. She channeled Romney strategy outlined by the advisers earlier in the day quite nicely, delivering a rousing speech that focused on women but made no mention of abortion or much mention of women’s health beyond her own struggles with disease.
Instead, she focused on the economy — using essentially the same messaging Team Romney uses for women.
She spoke of “working moms who love their jobs but would like to work just a little less to spend more time with the kids, but that’s just out of the question with this economy” and “that couple who would like to have another child, but wonder how will they afford it.”
Republicans spent several days hammering away at Akin and calling for him to get out of the Missouri Senate race after his “legitimate rape” comment unleashed a firestorm. But they also approved a party platform that hews far outside the mainstream on abortion, calling for a total ban and making no mention of exceptions.
This stuff matters, women’s rights advocates say, but the Romney campaign seems intent on sidestepping it. In an interview before the first day of the convention Monday, Romney distanced himself from the platform by calling for legal abortion for victims of rape and incest and for mothers whose health is on the line. But he followed that up by saying that abortion rights are not on the ballot and trying to change the subject to anything else, and hoping that women voters on the fence in this election do too.