OK

Romney, campaign rally, all-men backdrop
Before he cared about women.
(Marvin Gentry/Reuters)
Mitt Romney at campaign event, surrounded on stage by women
After he realized he had a problem with women. (Tim Shaffer/Reuters)
One of the advantages of being a conservative like Ramesh Ponnuru is that it's a virtue to ignore reality.
On the day after Rick Santorum dropped out of the race and removed all doubt Romney would be the nominee, the campaign issued five press releases within three hours on the theme that President Barack Obama’s economic record has failed American women: one featuring comments by Romney, four highlighting remarks by female Republican politicians supporting him.

It might be a good strategy, if the women’s vote existed.

It has. Since 1920.
The evidence that Romney is lagging in the polls because voters are upset about a “war on women” -- rather than because of a bruisingly negative primary campaign or the recovering economy -- is pretty thin. But Republicans are responding not just to the polls but to the persistent mythology of the gender gap.
Persistent mythology?
That's some serious myth-making by the nation's polling industrial complex.
Of course, Romney should use female campaign surrogates. (He should especially continue to highlight his wife, Ann, who is likely to wow both men and women.)
Figures Ann Romney would give Ponnuru starbursts, but Ann will be as effective in winning women as Sarah Palin before her. Or put another way—just because some dudes at National Review think a Republican female is dreamy, doesn't mean the ladies are just as smitten.
It’s a mistake for Romney to think he has a special problem with women, or that he can solve it by making a gender-specific appeal.
How can anyone say that there's no "special problem" with a demographic, when you're losing it by 20 points? On the other hand, Punnuru is right that Romney can't bridge the gender gap by making any gender-specific appeals.

Fact is, any gender-specific appeal Romney could possibly make would inflame the conservative base. They won't tolerate apostasy from their standard bearer in their War on Women. So Punnuru is right about that, why bother trying?

Republicans deserve credit for resisting the idea -- the lazy instinct, really -- that what female voters care most about are stereotypically “women’s issues.”
Women issues like, you know, access to health care, family leave so, you know, they can be with their families during times of need, the choice to stay home with your kids even if your husband isn't Mitt Romney, equal pay for equal work, not calling them sluts because they want access to birth control, etc, etc, etc. (And no, Ann, "debt legacy" isn't one of those issues.)

And how do we know women actually care about those issues? Because the polling tells us so. Look what pollsters found after the Rush Limbaugh Slutgate fiasco. USA Today:

The biggest change came among women under 50. In mid-February, just under half of those voters supported Obama. Now more than six in 10 do while Romney's support among them has dropped by 14 points, to 30%. The president leads him 2-1 in this group.
And ABC:
White women, in particular, have shifted in Obama’s direction since the last ABC/Post poll March 10. Among registered voters, white women then favored Romney over Obama by 55-38 percent; today they divide evenly, 47-48 percent. Preferences among white men, by contrast, are essentially unchanged, at 61-35 percent for Romney now, 63-33 percent a month ago.
And if anyone wondered whether the Hillary Rosen (who?) kerfuffle from last week had any impact on the gender gap, the answer is no. Heck, the latest PPP poll from Florida shows Obama winning Sunshine State women 55-39.

The dilemma for Romney isn't whether to take Ponnuru's advice or not. It's that he has no choice but to do so.

Originally posted to kos on Tue Apr 17, 2012 at 11:27 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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