Mitt fumbles on women's issues
HARTFORD, Conn. — Mitt Romney took one of his first swings at eliminating a daunting gender gap with President Barack Obama here today, and missed.
Wielding a flier and standing before three dozen Connecticut businesswomen, Romney highlighted what he said is Obama’s terrible record on getting jobs for women.
“I was disappointed in listening to the president as he’s saying, ‘Oh, Republicans are waging a war on women,’” Romney told a crowd in a cramped printing company warehouse here. “The real war on women is being waged by the president’s failed economic policies.”
Romney then read from one of his glossy fliers titled, “Women & the Obama economy,” that his team had distributed before his arrival.
“This is an amazing statistic,” Romney said. “The percentage of jobs lost by women in the president’s three, three and a half years, 92.3 percent of all the jobs lost during the Obama years have been lost by women. Ninety-two point three percent!”
That figure, first introduced by Romney’s press staff earlier this month and repeated by Romney surrogate Bay Buchanan during a Tuesday afternoon conference call with reporters, was dubbed “mostly false” by PolitiFact.
And during a Wednesday morning call with reporters, Romney policy chief Lanhee Chen and other surrogates were asked three separate times how the Obama administration has been worse for women than men and provided no specifics.
The 20-minute Wednesday morning call illustrated the speed bumps the Romney operation faces as it transitions from a primary campaign to a far larger general election operation after Rick Santorum dropped out of the race on Tuesday.
One of Romney’s biggest hurdles is his 20-point lag behind Obama with female voters, according to recent polling, which could decide the election. The campaign has tried to start compensating for the gap by spotlighting Ann Romney, who is generally thought to provide a softer and more approachable contrast to Romney’s stiffer persona.
On the Wednesday conference call, Sam Stein of the Huffington Post asked for Romney’s position on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — the first law Obama signed as president — that eliminated the statute of limitations for women to sue to receive equal pay for performing the same jobs as men.
Following a six-second pause, an unidentified voice replied, “Sam, we’ll get back to you on that.”
Two hours later, by which time the Obama campaign emailed reporters a reaction from Ledbetter herself and gleefully sought to create a Twitter meme from the Romney campaign’s fumble, the Romney campaign responded by saying that Romney is “not proposing any changes” to the Ledbetter act.
The Romney campaign then emailed reporters nearly identical statements of support from three of the former Massachusetts governor’s prominent female supporters, who all pronounced Obama as bad for women: Reps. Mary Bono Mack of California, Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state and Kerry Healey, who served as Romney’s lieutenant governor in Massachusetts.
Then, Democrats pointed out over Twitter that Bono Mack and McMorris Rodgers voted against the Ledbetter act.
Beyond the obvious attempt to appeal to women through optics, signs and surrogates, Romney himself acknowledged during a Wednesday morning Fox News interview that he has work to do.
Asked how he’ll counter the argument that he’s a “rich, out-of-touch guy,” Romney said the campaign has reached a point at which he can start over.
“We have some time ahead, seven months in a general election campaign,” he said. “People will get to know me better, and they’ll get to know [Obama] better, as well, and they’ll look at his record, which ultimately is the record upon which a campaign is going to be waged. But the person I’m out of touch with is Barack Obama. I’m in touch with the American people.”
And at the close of his 17-minute address in Hartford, Romney invited his supporters — women standing behind him to make the TV shot, while the mostly male audience is kept, literally, out of the picture — to help him make his case.
“This president will do, in his campaign, anything he can to deflect from his record. What I’m going to have to do every day is bring him back to his record.”
He added: “I have to show, for instance, that the policies of this administration have led to 92 percent of the people who have lost their jobs being women in this country. When he says, ‘Oh, there is a war on women,’ let’s bring him back to the fact that it is the real war upon women that has been waged by his economic policies.”
“Let’s hammer day in and day out what has happened under his policies, and recognize those policies, those things he believes, do not work.”