It spoke plainly of the presidential election contest at hand that Mitt Romney would state on the stage of the National Rifle Association convention in St. Louis both this:
”We need a president who will stand up for the rights of hunters, sportsmen and those seeking to protect their homes and their families.”
“I happen to believe all moms are working moms.”
In a span of news cycles punctuated by the headline-grabbing comments of Democrat Hilary Rosen — who said Romney’s wife Ann had “never worked a day in her life” — and rock n’ roll’s Ted Nugent — who asserted that he’ll either be “dead or in jail” if President Barack Obama wins reelection in November — another more substantive situation this week gained less notice.
Obama leads Romney in most national polling.
The president was up by nine points in a CNN poll, up by four in the Pew Research Center’s count, up by four in Quinnipiac University’s survey and even in the CBS/New York Times poll. Romney holds a five-point advantage in The Gallup Poll’s daily tracking.
While a flurry of public polls released this week showed voters voicing dissatisfaction with Obama’s handling of the economy, certainly the most important issue of the 2012 election, the cross-tabs also underscored another, more basic factor. Romney has a problem with women. In the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll — which places Obama six points ahead of Romney — the president holds a 12 percentage-point lead over Romney among women.
That gender gap, as well as a commanding advantage for Obama among Hispanic voters, helps explain why the president is weathering rough economic times.
It also explains why Ann Romney took it as a welcome “birthday present” that Rosen’s remark would so inflame the sentiments of women like her who devoted their careers to raising their children. She raised five sons.
She was careful to praise working fathers as well as working mothers in her introduction of the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee at the NRA convention. He followed, calling her “a hero” and “my sweetheart.”
It will be Romney’s unique challenge in the months ahead to celebrate the support of people like Nugent, who exhorted his fellow gun-lovers last weekend to “ride into that battlefield” of the year’s elections “and chop their heads off in November” and who can’t wait to invite a President Romney to a bowhunt, and court the support of millions of women asking what Romney and his Republican rivals were thinking in all those primary debates over contraception, Planned Parenthood and the rest.
Why was it that a campaign adviser couldn’t initially answer a reporter’s question about Romney’s support for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that Obama signed to give women stronger standing in equal pay lawsuits? Of course Romney supports it, a spokeswoman later said. Yet the campaign had spent so long in the debates with party rival Rick Santorum that it wasn’t ready for the general election script.
“This president is moving us away from our founders’ vision,” Romney told his audience at the NRA. “Instead of limited government, he is leading us toward limited freedom and limited opportunity… As president, the Constitution would be my guide, and the Declaration of Independence my compass.”
There are some constitutional rights at stake for women in the 2012 election as well, with an aging Supreme Court offering the president elected in November an imprint on judicial matters for years to come. And most voters are women.
While Romney holds out guns for his allies aligned behind the Second Amendment, it will take more than roses for his wife on stage at the NRA to close a gap in the pursuit of the most significant electoral constituency of all.