Flanked by a mosaic of hundreds of female supporters, President Obama delivered his sharpest attack yet on Mitt Romney’s record on women’s rights during a rally Friday at George Mason University in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.
Obama described Romney’s recent behavior, which included a (brief) flirtation with renouncing abortion-related legislation and ongoing confusion over his position on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, as symptomatic of a dangerous illness.
“We’ve got to name this condition that he’s going through,” Obama said. “I think it’s called Romnesia.”
He continued: “If you say you’re for equal pay for equal work, but you keep refusing to sign a bill that protects equal pay for equal work, you might have Romnesia,” Obama said.
The crowd saw where this was going. As he moved on with other examples on abortion, contraception, and taxes, they began chanting the new buzzword before he could even finish his sentence.
“If you say you’ll protect a woman’s right to choose, but you stand up in a primary debate and say that you’d be delighted to sign a law outlawing that right to choose in all cases: man, you definitely got Romnesia.”
The good news: “Obamacare covers preexisting conditions. We can fix you up. We’ve got a cure. This is a curable disease.”
Running up the gender gap, especially with young and single women, is absolutely critical to an Obama win and the campaign has launched an all-out effort since this week’s debate to pin Romney down on his most conservative positions. Many progressive women’s groups were disappointed that these topics didn’t come up in Obama’s first meeting with Romney, but the second debate produced an array of memorable quotes and exchanges to build on.
To that end, Obama used every weapon at his disposal. He was introduced by Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, then bounded onto the stage sporting a bright pink bracelet for breast cancer awareness month. He repeated his now-standard applause line about Romney’s use of “binders full of women” to find qualified appointees in Massachusetts, a quote that’s taken off among Democrats in a major way. He brought back an old Romney quote from the primaries about getting rid of Roe vs. Wade. On the stage were two bright blue signs, each reading “Women’s Health Security.”
The “binders full of women” line, and especially the broader answer on pay equity Romney offered, resonated in particular with audience members, many of whom brought it up unprompted in interviews ahead of the speech.
Maureen Schepis of Northern Virginia, said that Romney revealed “how he thinks about women” in the second debate, adding that he seemed to operate in a different “reality” than most people.
“It was weird,” Varley said of the binders comment.
Julie McDonald, a new transplant to Fairfax, brought up Romney’s discussion of flexible work hours so that one of his female appointees could cook dinner at the end of the day.
“I recognized that if you’re going to have women in the workforce, that sometimes they need to be more flexible,” Romney said Tuesday night. “My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school. She said, I can’t be here until 7:00 or 8:00 at night. I need to be able to get home at 5:00 so I can be there for — making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said, fine, let’s have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.”
McDonald took this to mean Romney wanted women to get home early to cook dinner, and was insulted. She wasn’t the only person who noticed that comment and took offense. Nan Johnson, a local retiree who addressed the crowd before Obama took the stage, hit the line hard. “If you’re going to have women in the workforce,” Johnson said, each word dripping with contempt. “If? Like a woman having a job is some sort of proposition that you debate in the board room.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone so out of touch,” she added.
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