To Democrats, the war on women is a winner.
Terry McAuliffe has pulled ahead of Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the Virginia governor’s race almost exclusively by crushing him among female voters.
A series of McAuliffe’s ads frame Cuccinelli’s conservative stances on abortion, birth control and even divorce as attacks against women — similar to the “war on women” strategy President Obama used against Mitt Romney in 2012 and that Democratic Sens. Harry Reid of Nevada, Michael Bennett of Colorado and Patty Murray of Washington used to beat back GOP opponents in 2010.
Now, in the marquee race of 2013, McAuliffe’s popularity among female voters is raising Democratic hopes that the strategy will be equally effective in two of the most closely watched races of 2014: Filibustering abortion-rights hero Wendy Davis said last week she will challenge Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott for governor of Texas while North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan is fending off a Republican lawmaker who backed strict abortion limits tucked into a bill on motorcycle safety.
“What we’re seeing in Virginia is incredibly validating,” said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, which is airing a $1 million television and radio campaign against Cuccinelli. “I believe this race has set the table for these issues and for women to be determinative in 2014.”
Closing the gender gap was one of the major goals identified by the Republican National Committee in a sweeping review of the 2012 election, but a new United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection poll suggests the GOP is still struggling to connect with women. Only 14 percent of women said the Republican Party better represented their views. More than twice as many women, 33 percent, said the party had drifted further away, while 46 percent saw no change.
The Republican establishment, which had watched promising Senate candidates like Richard Mourdock in Indiana and Todd Akin in Missouri fizzle in 2012 after making insensitive comments about rape and abortion, cringed earlier this year when Arizona Rep. Trent Franks said “the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low” in a debate over banning abortions after 20 weeks. The bill passed in June.
“Republicans clearly haven’t learned the lessons of the last campaign,” said Democratic pollster Margie Omero. “These issues are a vivid reminder of how extreme the Republican Party has become.”
Early 2016 polls showing Democrat Hillary Clinton leading potential Republican rivals in part because of double-digit advantages among women are another warning sign for the Republican Party. As Clinton mulls a presidential bid, she has been more open than she was in her 2008 campaign in talking about women breaking barriers ““ with an understated wink to her audience. Emily’s List, which raises money for female candidates who support abortion rights, has launched a “Madam President” campaign to elect the first female president and held town halls in the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
But girl power has its limits. Democratic underdog Barbara Buono has gotten little if any traction from assailing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for vetoing equal-pay legislation and Planned Parenthood funding (though she has yet to put any money behind the attacks on television.) And three of the most high-profile Democratic Senate candidates backed by Emily’s List are running in Republican-leaning states where they are unlikely to hang their campaign on women’s issues. Democrats Michelle Nunn in Georgia, Allison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky and Natalie Tennant in West Virginia don’t mention the endorsement or abortion on their campaign web sites.
“I don’t know how Democrats think (the war on women) is a positive message that can win,” said Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway, who points out that the top issues for women are generally jobs and the economy. “I guess if you’re bereft of a compelling record or compelling vision, you resort to talking about the war on women. It’s an insulting premise and a limited strategy.”
It’s also questionable whether McAuliffe’s focus on women’s issues will translate to other races in which the Republican candidate has been less outspoken than Cuccinelli on issues like abortion. The attorney general spearheaded the state’s crackdown on regulating abortion clinics and sponsored a “personhood” bill as a state lawmaker that said life began at fertilization and could have limited access to birth control. McAuliffe’s top advisers acknowledge that the fierce debate in the state over the Republican-led legislature requiring women seeking abortions to get ultrasound exams helped lay the groundwork for making the case against Cuccinelli “interfering” in women’s private lives.
The strength of McAuliffe’s women-focused offensive comes from the way he links it to a more sweeping accusation that Cuccinelli is outside the mainstream on a range of issues.
Cuccinelli says McAuliffe’s attacks are misleading. One ad features a gynecologist who declares Cuccinelli “wants to make all abortion illegal,” though he has said there should be an exception if the women’s life is at stake. He has also insisted that he doesn’t think the government should play a role in birth control.
“You all are seeing the ads,” Cuccinelli said in the most recent debate against McAuliffe. “It’s overwhelmingly negative. It is unbelievably false.”
Cuccinelli has also tried to make up ground with a new ad that features a female Democratic member of the Richmond school board, Tichi Pinkney Eppes. “That Ken has some agenda against women? Ridiculous,” she says.
But Cuccinelli’s dwindling appeal among women could cost him an election in an off-year in which a Republican candidate was favored to win. In the latest Washington Post poll, McAuliffe’s six-point lead was almost exclusively fueled by female voters, who prefer him by 24 points over Cuccinelli. The candidates were statistically tied among women in May.
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”