Julia has a pretty good life.
According to a slideshow posted on Obama's campaign website, the faceless Everywoman conceived by the campaign was helped by Head Start programs, a Pell Grant, and tax credits to make it through college, and she gets free medical care at various points in her life, all due to policies President Obama has enacted or defended. She finally retires – after raising a son, starting a business, and in good health due to Medicare – at the ripe old age of 67, and lives out her (presumably) long, healthy life on Social Security, which "help[s] her retire comfortably, without worrying that she'll run out of savings."
But Julia is a composite, meant to represent all women in America affected by Obama's policies, and as such, she can't quite speak out against Republican retellings of her narrative. And because this time, the Obama campaign put out a literally faceless, voiceless surrogate for their campaign, Republicans have wasted no time in speaking for her.
The general Republican consensus is this: The life of Julia “is a celebration of a how a woman can live her entire life by leaning on government intervention, dependency, and other people's money rather than her own initiative or hard work,” as conservative columnist Charles C. W. Cooke writes in National Review, calling it “implicitly un-American.”
Conservative David Harsanyi, writing in Human Events magazine, calls the slideshow “one of the most brazenly statist pieces of campaign literature I can ever remember seeing.”
And the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto says that “it's a dishonest vision, because it presents all of these benefits as 'free,' never acknowledging that they are paid for through coercive taxation.”
But Republicans aren’t merely slamming the Obama campaign’s depiction of Julia for what they see as its flawed ideological underpinning; they, too, are aiming to offer voters a counterview of how they see Julia’s life playing out.
The Republican National Committee took to Tumblr to provide a series of facts on "#Julia and the Obama Economy" that portrays a life in which Julia lives with her parents after graduation due to "the Obama economy" and doesn't have Social Security.
Republicans on Twitter took the RNC's lead and have been using the #Julia hashtag to post their own versions of Julia's life. As recently as Friday morning, in reaction to the sluggish jobs numbers out on Friday, RNC communications director Sean Spicer tweeted out "#Julia just told her mom she was going to be living at home a lot longer."
According to Twitter analytics tool Topsy, the hashtag #julia amounted to 32,142 mentions at 11 a.m. on Thursday, and counting. At least two parody Twitter accounts have popped up, @LifeofJulia and @WaronJulia, both of which attempt to give voice to the Republican version of the Democratic composite, and a Tumblr was created with the express purpose of debunking some of the Obama campaign's claims.
Conservative bloggers at Hot Air and the National Review offered alternate timelines for Julia’s life, in which, according to NRO's Kevin D. Williamson, she is aborted at four months. Hot Air's Ed Morrissey offers "a more realistic" view of Julia's life, in which she defaults on her student loans "onto the backs to [sic] taxpayers." And Alana Goodman over at Commentary charts how Julia's portion of the national debt will rise throughout her life, under Obama's policies.
But the Republican response has been largely reactionary, and it’s brought women’s issues back in the spotlight in a week when the Romney campaign just wanted to talk about the economy. This marks the second shift this week to issues on which Obama holds more ground – on Monday, the president had the nation talking about the successful killing of Osama bin Laden with a speech from Afghanistan, and today, even with dismal jobs numbers out, Julia will likely continue to color the debate.
Even as Republicans mock Julia on Twitter, they’re sending more people to the Obama campaign’s website, and this is one battle where Obama clearly leads, as a mid-April nationwide poll gives him 49 percent support with female voters over Romney’s 39 percent.
The Washington Examiner's Phillip Klein writes that the Julia meme indicates Obama is winning, with the Romney campaign "taking the bait" and merely parrying Obama's moves.
"It's been widely agreed that given Obama's vulnerabilities, Romney's chances of winning hinge on his ability to make the election a referendum on Obama's record," he writes. "And here is where Romney is failing. His campaign is allowing the president to change the subject."