Are women waking up and smelling the lies being sold to them? Check it out.
The so-called war on women that Democrats love to talk about on the campaign trail may be losing some of its luster.
The attack line — aimed at painting Republicans as out of sync with women on contraception, abortion and other issues — isn’t resonating like in 2012, when Democrats hurled it at the GOP with a devastating effect. Instead, Republicans have improved their standing among women during this election cycle, narrowing the gender gap in key races that could decide control of the Senate.
The dynamic reflects the painstaking efforts among Republicans to avoid the mistakes of 2012. This time around, there aren’t any candidates talking about “legitimate rape” or “binders full of women.”
And the GOP put up strong female candidates in states like Iowa and Michigan, making it harder for Democrats to attack them as opposed to the interests of women.
The strategy seems to be paying off.
“The gender gap is smaller when Republicans don’t make mistakes,” said Jennifer Lawless, director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University. “Republicans this time have managed to neutralize their deficiencies in this area so the war on women rhetoric does not resonate so much.”
Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, said Republicans are riding a “perfect storm” in Senate races in red states as they enjoy the knock-on effect of national factors like Ebola and ISIS, which have overshadowed social issues.
“They have learned their lessons from 2012,” she said.
Still, Democrats aren’t toning down the rhetoric.
An attack ad by Democratic Sen. Mark Udall warns that the only place his opponent Cory Gardner will take Colorado women is backwards, and accused him of waging an “eight year crusade that would ban birth control.” Another Udall spot features a female gynecologist and obstetrician complaining that Gardner sponsored harsh anti-abortion laws.
The barrage has prompted Republicans backing Gardner to brand Udall “Senator Uterus” — a phrase that was even picked up by a moderator in a Colorado Senate debate this month.
Despite the attacks, polls show abortion and contraception are not decisive issues in their tight race — reflecting data that shows the core Democratic constituency of young unmarried women often tune out the mid-terms.
In a Quinnipiac University poll last week, women picked Udall by 45% to 41%. But men back Gardner by 51% to 38% giving the Republican a five point lead in the race overall.
It’s a similar story in Arkansas, where the incumbent Mark Pryor is tied or just behind among women with Republican Tom Cotton, but is down about 15 points or more among men.
The Democrat launched a “Women for Pryor” tour through the state this month, and has put up YouTube videos slamming Cotton for “insulting” views on women. In June, a Pryor ad featured a woman identified as “Courtney” who asked “Who is this guy and what has he got against women?”
In Iowa, Republicans are savoring the strong showing of Joni Ernst, who leads Democrat Bruce Braley despite assaults on her position on abortion, which she opposes. Ernst, a Harley-Davidson riding Army veteran has built a tough political persona after turning around her campaign in an ad in which she spoke of castrating hogs on an Iowa farm.