In 2010, the gender gap that had plagued the GOP for about 30 years disappeared. Women and men voted about the same. But I believe that in 2012, the gender gap will be back, and with a vengeance.
In a presidential election, voters who are not part of either party’s base, look not just at the candidates themselves, but at whether the far left or the far right looks scarier for that particular cycle. It’s about where the pendulum has swung since the last election and moving it back toward the middle.
For women, the far right will look scarier. Even if they don’t mind Mitt personally, he will lose votes because of the baggage his base brings on birth control and abortion rights. They have stirred the pot too much since 2010 both at the state and national level, and the atavistic rhetoric during the presidential primary has only exacerbated the outrage and sense of backsliding, the visceral sense that the GOP is bad for women.
The far left won’t look very scary because we’ve already had one term of President Obama, and we don’t have a hammer and sickle on our flag. The mansions on the Upper East Side haven’t been broken up into apartments for “the people,” and the estates in the Hamptons haven’t been turned into summer camps for workers.
There are five segments in the electorate. There are the two segments who always vote R or D. For them, campaigns are more about entertainment than edification, since their minds are made up. There are the two segments who “lean” R or D, some of whom register in that party and some of whom register as Independents. Then there are the people who truly are Independents, who don’t lean consistently and who pretty much start at square one for each presidential race.
Mitt is going to lose many women who lean R and many women who are true Independents, and therefore he will lose the election.
It’s seven months till the voting, but for me, the election was over at the debate when George Stephanopoulus asked Mitt if he thought states could ban birth control. From the look on Mitt’s face, I think he knew it too.