For Second Debate, It’s Ladies Night
13 points -- Barack Obama’s margin of victory among female voters in the 2008 election according to exit polls.
The Obama campaign is pooh-poohing the new USA Today/Gallup poll that shows a tie among female voters between President Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Team Obama calls the poll an “extreme outlier” and suggests that the president still enjoys an advantage with women voters. But even if the Blue Team were still rocking the 8-point advantage with women that Obama’s pollsters suggest, it would still mean an Obama loss.
Obama doesn’t just need to win with women, he needs a blowout. Maybe not the 13 points of 2008, but pretty close.
Here’s why. Obama won with male voters by a single point in 2008. He’s not going to come close this time. In fact, he is looking at a massive loss with men. The most recent FOX News poll shows Obama down 10 points with likely male voters.
The good news for Democrats is that they traditionally enjoy an advantage with female voters and female voters traditionally outnumber male voters. Women made up 53 percent of the electorate in 2008 exit polls and 52 percent in 2010.
Most of the president’s outreach to women so far has centered on warning that Romney and the Republicans are radical on abortion and birth control. If the president tries that again tonight, it could be curtains for his re-election hopes.
But in 2010, women swung 8 points from Democrat to Republican, giving the GOP a rare 1-point advantage among female voters. The male swung 6 points, returning to a more typical Republican advantage in the dude vote.
The midterms were a Democratic wipeout of historic proportions, but even if Obama doubles John Kerry’s 2004 advantage of 3 points among women, he would have big trouble on his hands. Men look likely to vote for Romney at a higher level than George W. Bush’s 9-point advantage eight years ago, more than enough to offset the higher voting frequency of women.
The past two weeks have been a thoroughgoing disaster for Obama with women. First, Romney showed himself as a moderate problem solver in the first presidential debate. He talked about the federal debt – a key concern for conscientious moms – and he demonstrated presidential-style composure. Second, Vice President Joe Biden turned in a cringe-inducing performance in his showdown with Rep. Paul Ryan.
While the Democratic base may have thrilled to see the vice president in bully bulldozer mode, polls show that a lot of women found his aggressive behavior off-putting. Women have been shown to value compromise civil discourse and respectful campaigning more than men, and Biden showed neither.
Now, as Obama heads into tonight’s high-stakes town-hall debate, his campaign is promising that the president will be aggressive and take the fight to Romney – to block and reverse Romney’s surge. The promise from team Obama is that the president will act as a prosecutor tonight, attacking Romney’s record and character.
What a mistake that would be.
Obama has yet to fully make the case for his own re-election. He has not made a full defense of his biggest policy achievements: more than $1 trillion in stimulus measures and his 2010 health law. Neither has the president articulated a vision for his next four years that goes beyond a plea to stay the course and allow his policies to work.
Bill Clinton showed how it should be done in his convention speech, but Obama has so far failed to make his own case, trying instead to make the race a referendum on Romney’s character.
Moreover, Obama is at his worst when he is being contentious or argumentative. While his sullen performance two weeks ago was unattractive to voters, Obama the aggressive would be a disaster, especially given the format of tonight’s debate.
With women moving Romney’s way, Obama has to find a way to replicate some of his 2008 town-hall debate performance.
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