At debate, Pres. Obama desperate to appeal to women

By | October 17th, 2012

We speculated that the moderator for last night’s Presidential debate, CNN’s Candy Crowley, might interject and guide a debate question in President Obama’s favor.

If it happened, we supposed it would be on a question regarding women’s reproductive issues. That topic is one the Obama campaign would most like to highlight as a closing argument in the campaign. Today’s coverage by The New York Times and The Washington Post is evidence of that.

We were correct that Crowley would run interference, it just turned out to be on the issue of the murder of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya.

As it happens, Obama didn’t need anybody’s help to turn a town-hall question about equal pay for women into a discussion about contraception…

“..Now, there are some other issues that have a bearing on how women succeed in the workplace,” said the President, according to a Politico transcript. “For example, their healthcare. You know a major difference in this campaign is that Governor Romney feels comfortable having politicians in Washington decide the health care choices that women are making.”

“I think that’s a mistake. In my health care bill, I said insurance companies need to provide contraceptive coverage to everybody who is insured. Because this is not just a — a health issue, it’s an economic issue for women. It makes a difference. This is money out of that family’s pocket…”

His reference is to the U.S. Health and Human Services mandate for contraceptive coverage, which we have discussed at length. His contention that having employers cover an expense (estimated by some to be as low as $9 per month) is critical for the success of women in the workplace seems rather a forced connection with the question presented.

Obama’s emphasis of this message - even as it seems to be failing to persuade women voters - suggests that it really is a key closing argument in the campaign, and that he has nothing new to present on this front.

He mentioned “Planned Parenthood” five times, according to the transcript.

Romney had to fight through an objection from Obama, and use part of his time from the following question to respond:

“I’d just note that I don’t believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not. I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they can have contraceptive care or not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives, and the president’s statement of my policy is completely and totally wrong.”

In the meantime, the new Romney ad below cleverly appropriates the “e-word,” to describe the Obama campaign coalition’s messaging, while seeking to refocus women voters on the economy and reassure them that voting for him is a safe choice:

It will also be interesting to see if the Romney campaign uses the equal pay issues to refocus attention on previously-aired complaints by senior women White House officials about being “excluded and ignored,” while also being paid 18% less than their male counterparts.