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Gender Gap: Why Don’t Women Like Romney and What Can He Do About It?

John on February 16, 2012 at 9:56 am

The Atlantic’s Ronald Brownstein reports on a new Pew study that suggests Obama’s coalition–the one that led him to victory in ’08–is reforming. While most of Obama’s numbers by partisanship and race look similar to last time, the gender numbers show a slight but significant shift:

In 2008, Obama won 49 percent of men; Pew finds him with 45 percent against Romney. Against McCain, Obama won 56 percent of women; Pew finds him drawing 59 percent against Romney. Among white men, Pew finds Obama’s support slipping from 41 percent in 2008 to 36 percent now (with all of the decline coming among white men without a college degree, the toughest audience throughout his presidency.) Among white women, though, Pew finds Obama rising from 46 percent in 2008 to 52 percent against Romney-and recording gains among both college-plus women (whom he carried last time) and the working-class “waitress moms” who strongly preferred McCain.

I think this begs the question: Why doesn’t Romney connect with women? We’ve been told for months that Newt’s marital baggage meant he couldn’t win. Presumably women voters wouldn’t vote for a guy who’d left two wives behind. But Romney has a sterling record in this regard. He’s handsome, faithful, wealthy…so why are women liking him less than they liked McCain? Or perhaps we could ask, why are women liking Obama more than they did in 2008?

At this point I’d love to be able to offer a convincing argument for why this is happening, but the truth is I don’t get it. Women have been affected by the economy just as badly as men, so I don’t see why they would reward Obama with more support on this basis. It has to be something else.

I have one theory and it’s far from solid. In 2008 Michelle Obama was a bit of a cypher as was Cindy McCain. Now, three years later, she’s been doing campaigns for kids, she’s on TV frequently, etc. I think a lot of women like Mrs. Obama (just as most Americans liked Mrs. Bush after she’d been on the scene a while). By contrast, Mrs. Romney hasn’t spoken up much. I think her name is Ann? Honestly I can’t recall, which may be part of the problem. I know what she looks like but she hasn’t really made an impression other than being Mitt’s blonde wife.

Again, this is a guess, but I wonder if Obama isn’t reaping the reward of his wife’s popularity whereas Romney has only himself to draw women to his side. If there’s anything to this, maybe Mrs. Romney needs to get out there a bit more and win over some hearts and minds. If we don’t win back some of those women voters by election day, we’re going to lose.

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