VOTER TARGETING VS. MOVEMENT BUILDING. One of the peculiarities of this moment in progressive movement building is the way progressive interest groups are being asked to put aside their interests in favor of building a smooth, unified political party that can win elections at the very moment that some rather compelling evidence has begun to emerge arguing for the enduring political utility of defending those interests. For example, Jonathan Singer argued over the weekend, the Republican assault on choice may well have begun to backfire in a way that opens up new opportunities for Democrats to win by defending it. He notes a "whopping 30-point gender gap" in last week's Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll (PDF) "on the generic congressional ballot question, with women overwhelmingly preferring to see a Democratic Congress by a 58 percent to 30 margin while men narrowly prefer a GOP Congress by a 41 percent to 39 percent margin." The Cook Political Report poll for RT Strategies (PDF), he notes, also "showed the Democrats holding a 10-point generic congressional ballot lead, 46 percent to 36 percent" and "an 11-point gender gap, with women favoring the Democrats by 15 points while men favor the Dems by only 4." So to the extent that Republicans have won in recent years in part due to superior voter targeting and turnout operations, it would seem politically advisable for Democrats interested in winning elections to examine the causes of this gender gap in voter preferences and figure out a targeting strategy that maximizes whatever advantages it can confer. Asks Singer:

One cannot be certain about the cause of this returned gender gap without conducting some specific polling on the subject, but I don't see the conclusion that the issue of choice was a major cause as being off-the-wall. And if it is indeed the case that the Republican Party's aggressive anti-choice agenda, which has been in full force over the past year and a half, is at least partially at the root of this shift, is it so wise for the Democrats to back off of the issue of choice? Certainly, attempting to reframe the debate to incorporate terms more amenable to voters -- I wouldn't say softening the message, but perhaps tweaking a few key words here and there -- can't hurt the Democrats, but should the party really give up on the issue of choice, particularly at a time when women appear to be coming back to the party in droves? I personally think not. And if the Democrats fail to tap into these sentiments, they run the very real risk of passing up their greatest opportunity for fundamentally altering the balance of power in Congress in more than a decade. (emphases added)

Or, as one smart female Democratic strategist said to me earlier in the year, �The idea that �let�s throw the girls over the side and we�ll be able to row better� is not a winning strategy.�

--Garance Franke-Ruta

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