Breaking: GOP Has a Woman Problem! But Does It Matter?

Politico reports today on a GOP-sponsored research project of women, the results of which will shock no one. Women are not just more unfavorable toward the GOP, they find the Republican Party "intolerant," "lacking in compassion," and "stuck in the past." But is this enough to boost Democratic chances?

I admit I applaud the frank inward look, despite the laughable proposed remedies. One is to promote "unexpected" policies like cracking down on gender bias in the workforce. (Talk about unexpected!) Another is to "deal honestly with any disagreement on abortion, then move on to other issues." (As in: "I'll be honest, I think your employer's medical opinions on birth control should matter more than those of your own doctor. So, how about those tax breaks?")

Even these "other issues" are not slam dunks with women either. The poll shows only a three-point Republican advantage on having "good ideas to grow the economy" or on being fiscally responsible. By contrast, Democrats have a 40-point advantage on "looking out for the interests of women." And women who say they care most about job creation give Democrats a 35-point advantage. A skilled pivot is necessary, but hardly sufficient.

But here's a tough question for the left. Can Republicans still be successful even as they continue to alienate a majority of the electorate? In midterms, the answer is undoubtedly yes. Examining official midterm exit polls since 1982 shows women alone have never determined a Democratic wave or prevented a Republican one. Women voted Democratic in the 1994 Gingrich-fueled wave. Both men and women voted Democratic in 2006 and then Republican in 2010. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find a midterm election in which women and men voted for different parties (just two in the last 30 years: 1994 and 1998).


Now, this pattern may not matter much this cycle, since these are national House race exit polls, and the biggest battles in 2014 are a handful of Senate contests. But these results suggest women are not controlling our national political dialogue, despite their majority status. We can point the finger many places -- at a lack of parity in media and elected office, or at the subsequent underrepresentation of women's issues. Empowering women's political engagement -- not mastering the artful political dodge -- should be the true focus of any candidate or party trying to make inroads with women.