If we learned anything during the presidential debates, it’s that both President Obama and Governor Romney knew who their core audience was and, in essence, were speaking to the same people. Not just the illusive undecided voter, but the highly desirable undecided female.
Akin to Sarah Palin’s 'hockey moms,' 'waitress moms' are becoming the new hot ticket in this year’s race. While the new term is even more pointed and derogatory, singling out a group of women not just for their occupation but also their socio-economic class, it describes a pointed and studied group, which each candidate is seeking to woo through various mean
This election is more polarized along gender lines than a presidential election has been in 40 years. According to research by the New York Times, the differential could be as high as 18 points, with men skewing towards Romney by nine points on average, and women skewing on average nine points towards Obama. The gender gap has not been this divisive since Bush vs. Gore in 2000.
Some explanations for the gender gap include studies which show that when incumbents are in office, women tend to be generally more sympathetic to giving them a few more years with a second term, especially for Democratic incumbents, as seen during the Clinton-Dole match up in 1996. In general, women tend to vote Democratic due to more lenient views towards abortion, gun control and same-sex marriage.
The core issues women care about are the same issues men care about: the economy and unemployment. As women now make up nearly 47% of the work force, they are severely affected by the downturn of the economy. While unemployment hovers around 7% overall, women actually have a lower rate of unemployment than men. As of September, unemployment for women is currently at 7.5%, versus men’s unemployment numbers at 8%.
However, more women are in lower paying jobs and make less money on average. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, last quarter women earned median weekly wages of $685, while men earned median weekly wages of $828. Hence, the candidates appealing to the 'waitress mom' who earns on average $143 less a week than her male counterpart. She needs someone in her corner, and each candidate is looking to be that contender.
Each candidate has showed their flare for the fairer sex. Like many an NFL star on the field during the month of October, President Obama recently sported a pink bracelet to raise awareness for breast cancer. (Though how genuine this fashion statement is, and how much money it actually raises, leaves some lingering questions.) Then, there is the now much Tweeted comment made by Romney that while governor he requested “binders full of women,” almost as if he was chairman of sorority rush rather than an elected official or businessman conducting a search for the most qualified candidates.
In invoking the Lilly Ledbetter Act, President Obama laid the gauntlet down to Romney, who did not sign the act, in leading the march towards women’s fair pay. Despite the fact that the Equal Pay Act of 1963 also included fair wages for women, the act has had to be re-enforced time and time again.
On sheer genealogy, Obama often holds the trump card. After all he lives in a household of four women: two daughters and his wife, even opting to live with his mother-in-law. With two daughters just on the precipice of young adulthood, Obama can make statements like “I want my daughters to be paid the same as their male counterparts” without seeming gimmicky. He does not have to invoke think tank catch phrases to entice women into his camp. As luck of the DNA lotto would go, Romney’s brood of five men means that he’s got less able to take a personal stake in women’s rights.
While the Democrats think that they have the women’s vote locked with their moderate stance and support of women’s issues, Romney’s campaign faces an uphill battle as he has to fight against more conservative sects of the GOP. Romney continually distances himself from blatantly anti-abortion party comments. Most recently, candidate Richard Mourdock made an inflammatory remark during a campaign stop in which he essentially legitimized rape saying that if it caused a pregnancy it was something God had intended. Since then, the Romney campaign has made a statement saying that while they disagree with his statement, they will still support his candidacy for Senate.
At this stage, it’s natural for both candidates to dig deep and try to best display their record on women and equality. But when binders and bracelets abound, and if last ditch efforts prove desperate, savvy female voters are likely to turn to the candidates’ past records to determine their future fates after the election.