NEW YORK —
While both parties are vying for the women's vote in this closely contested election, by far the greater swing in gender preference in the last four years has been among men. Republican candidate Mitt Romney currently leads President Barack Obama by 14 points among males, according to Gallup, compared with a virtual tie between Obama and John McCain in 2008. Among women, Obama led McCain by 14 points and now has an eight-point advantage over Romney. Just maybe the one-trick-pony tack isn't working.
On the campaign trail, Romney doesn't initiate discussions on social issues; he waits to be asked. I suspect that's because he doesn't share his party's opposition to abortion even in cases of rape.
But that isn't the only reason. In 2004, Republicans thought social issues, especially a ban on gay marriage, would help them garner votes, says David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington.
No longer. Recent polls suggest the public's attitudes have changed. "That sound you don't hear," Boaz says, "is the sound of social change."
The 2012 Republican Party platform calls for constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage and abortion in all cases. That is a big turn-off to some women, including me. It isn't enough of a reason to vote for Obama.
Besides, the United Statese isn't going back to the social policies of the 1950s under any circumstances, Obama's claims to the contrary notwithstanding. As Boaz notes, the public's views are changing, and social conservatives will have to change if they want to keep their congressional seats.
What about the influence of the tea party, you ask? Remember, the tea party movement started with a February 2009 rant by CNBC's Rick Santelli on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange against Obama's bailout policies. It had nothing to do with social issues. Its ideology was based on an aversion to big government, favoritism for big business, debt and taxes. Prominent social conservatives, such as Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, superimposed their views on the grassroots movement, not the other way around. Some socially conservative Tea Party candidates, such as Delaware's Christine O'Donnell, were defeated in the 2010 election.