Just before the second presidential debate on October 16th, polls showed President Barack Obama’s 18-point so called “women’s vote” advantage had plummeted to a tie with Mitt Romney. Then, during the second debate, a question on the equality of women in the workplace was asked and both candidates sparred over “women’s issues” for almost 8 minutes. This is a fight the Obama team chose by saying Republicans are at “war with women.” So then, why did Obama’s advantage with women collapse? Will Obama’s continued use of the catchphrase “War on Women” reverse the trend?
Interviews and statistical evidence present some surprising answers, but before digging into the reasons, we need some context. First of all, anationwide Pew Research Center Poll in mid-September had Obama with an 18-point lead with women. This same poll taken after the first debate had Obama and Romney tied among women voters at 47 percent. Meanwhile, a Gallup poll conducted after the first debate found that Romney had pulled to within one point of Obama with women who’re likely to vote (48-49 percent).
This has Democrats nervous. They know Obama must win the women’s vote by a sizable margin to secure a second term. The numbers bear this out. In 2008 Obama beat McCain in the national women’s vote by 13 points. But in 2010, when Republicans seized control of the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats lost support of women by a point. This was the first time in decades the Democrats didn’t carry the women’s vote nationally.
If they don’t regain a higher percentage of the women’s vote, they can’t win. For example, in the 2004 presidential election 52 percent of women voted for John Kerry, whereas in the 2000 election 53 percent of women voted for Al Gore, but both lost to their Republican rival.