The GOP Must Really Want to Lose this Election

This, via The New York Times, seems like a huge strategic miscalulation on part of conservative activists:

The National Association of Evangelicals, which represents thousands of churches in 40 denominations, “will be working vigorously” against the mandate, said Galen Carey, the association’s vice president for government relations — lending substance to the statement last week by Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and a Baptist minister, that “we are all Catholics now.”

Evangelical leaders say they would be outraged by the mandate in any case, but many also believe that it will bring them political gains. Mr. Reed, the conservative strategist, said that even if a majority of Americans expressed general support for requiring contraceptive coverage — and even if, as he believes, the economy remained the primary issue — getting conservative and religious voters more fired up could make a difference.

It’s not just conservative activists; at the moment, House Republicans—led by Representative Darrel Issa—are holding a hearing on contraceptive coverage in health insurance. And since women aren’t actually involved in the proceedings, it’s pretty clear that the goal here is to denounce the Obama administration for placing a priority on women’s health, and drum up support from the Republican base.

If all things were equal, this would be a defensible strategy. In an election that will hinge on a small number of swing states, the enthusiastic support of anti-birth-control conservatives could make the difference between victory and defeat. But all things aren’t equal, and these Republicans are in the distinct minority; the large majority of Americans, 65 percent, support the mandate. Which is to say that there are few things in American life as uncontroversial as birth control, and these attacks—if they continue—could alienate a large swath of voters.

In other words, Republicans—through their reflexive opposition to all things issued by the administration—have provided Democrats with the perfect wedge issue. Women, who are most affected by the policy, were 53 percent of the electorate in 2008, and supported Obama with 56 percent of the vote. The GOP assault on birth control could push that margin higher. Indeed, if Republicans were to suddenly lose their advantage among white women—who supported McCain with 53 percent of the vote—winning the election (much less taking back the Senat, or holding the House), would become substantially more difficult.

The Obama campaign is probably thrilled right now.