Democrats are hopeful that the town hall format at Tuesday’s presidential debate at Hofstra University will afford President Obama the chance to talk about women’s issues, a centerpiece of the president’s reelection campaign that didn’t make an appearance in the first debate in Denver.
“I think they quite naturally will be a part of the debate, particularly because of the way the format is set up,” DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz told TPM on a conference call about women’s issues Monday. “Given that it’s a town hall, and you have a moderator who’s essentially just facilitating the questions and the flow of discussion, I would fully expect these issues to come up because given that the audience is going to include a number of women who share the same concerns that we do, that those questions would be put to the candidates.”
In Denver Obama and Mitt Romney didn’t talk about contraception, abortion and other women’s health topics that have been front-and-center in much of the presidential race. National polling in the wake debate showed the gap between Obama and Romney among the female electorate narrowed, which some chalked up to the lack of discussion about women. But the polling has been mixed since Denver. In Ohio, where voters have been bombarded with Democratic messaging on women for months, Obama maintaining a lead with women. The gap has narrowed in other swing states like Florida and Virginia.
The vice presidential debate in Kentucky last week included a discussion of abortion, with Joe Biden drawing a clear distinction with Paul Ryan over the issue of choice and Ryan’s personal belief that women who are the victims of rape should not have the right to an abortion.
Wasserman Shultz said that a back and forth over women’s issues at the Hofstra debate will give Obama a boost.
“Women will have an opportunity tomorrow night to see exactly what the women on this call know,” she said, referring to the surrogates the DNC hosted on the Monday call, “that there could not be a more clear or stark contrast between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on issues important to women.”