VOTE 2012 -- April 6, 2012 at 10:16 AM ET
Romney, Obama Campaigns Battle to Secure Support of Women Voters
With the release of a USA Today/Gallup battleground states poll this week showing President Obama running 18 points better than Mitt Romney among women voters, there's even more interest than usual in figuring out what matters most to this giant voting bloc.
The early conventional wisdom is that this is largely due to conservative positions Romney and other Republicans espoused on social issues, especially contraception. But as Patchwork Nation founder and NewsHour contributor Dante Chinni reminded us in a piece he wrote for The Washington Post a few days ago -- and expanded upon on the NewsHour -- there are many different types of women voters, including those who are politically conservative. Still, it's clear that at this moment in the election year, Romney is having greater difficulty appealing to women than to men. In fact, another survey, done in late March by CNN/Opinion Research, showed the former Massachusetts governor at a whopping 23 point disadvantage among women, at 37 percent to 60 percent for the president.
There is no doubt opinions will change over the coming seven months, nor that many of the GOP women voters who like Romney, back him enthusiastically. Wisconsin state Sen. Alberta Darling told reporters on a conference call just before the primary in her state, "I'm a big Governor Romney supporter because Wisconsin's main issue is the economy and Governor Romney is the person to give us the bold vision and the guidance and have the guts to be able to do what we're going to have to do to get this country back on the right track."
But the challenge of appealing to independent and even Democratic women has to be taken seriously by his campaign. And signs are that it is. His organization has established "Women for Romney" committees in states that will be key in the fall, like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Ann Romney is talking more frequently about her husband and how much he cares about women's concerns. She often says jobs are as big a priority for women as they are for men, as she touts her husband's experience running a big company.
The Obama camp is equally focused on women voters, and by all accounts isn't taking them for granted. The White House is hosting a day-long conference this week on "women and the economy," explaining the purpose is "to highlight ways the Administration has helped create economic security for women and recognizes that women are key to economic growth and competitiveness."
Meanwhile, a new poll done for the College Board brings both campaigns an idea for yet another way to connect with women: the issue of education. Some 70 percent of independent women surveyed in nine "swing" states say they view education as "extremely important," just after the economy and jobs.The poll may bring somewhat better news for Democrats, in that it showed over 80 percent of women believe higher funding is necessary, and 51 percent say it is "definitely necessary."
In one final indication this week that neither campaign plans to cede ground in the contest for women voters, first President Obama, and then Governor Romney let it be known they think the private Augusta National Golf Club - home of the Masters' Golf Tournament - should buck 80 years of tradition and let women become members. If the two men keep this up, who knows what barriers to women might fall?