The Wrong Approach

It seems that Mitt Romney is following the Karl Rove template for presidential campaigns; taking your perceived weaknesses and using them to attack your opponent. The former Massachusetts governor has been criticized as an elitist reactionary who will say anything to get elected. And so, in the last two weeks, he has attacked President Obama as an out-of-touch hypocrite, who would rather scare voters than own up to his record.

The latest in what Amanda Marcotte calls the “I’m rubber, you’re glue” approach involves women voters, who have turned away from the Republican Party in huge numbers. Rather than present a more moderate image to women, the Romney campaign has opted to accuse the Obama administration of waging a “war on women” (in response to Democratic claims of the same). The evidence? Seemingly high job losses among women over the last three years. Here is a campaign graphic meant to illustrate the disparity:

The problem, as Politifact pointed out this morning, is that this is based on misleading numbers. So much so, in fact, that they gave the argument a rating of “Mostly False”:

By comparing job figures with January 2009 and March 2012 and weighing them against women’s job figures from the same periods, Saul came up with 92.3 percent. The numbers are accurate but quite misleading. First, Obama cannot be held entirely accountable for the employment picture on the day he took office, just as he could not be given credit if times had been booming. Second, by choosing figures from January 2009, months into the recession, the statement ignored the millions of jobs lost before then, when most of the job loss fell on men. In every recession, men are the first to take the hit, followed by women. It’s a historical pattern, Stevenson told us, not an effect of Obama’s policies.

The problem with running this kind of campaign, as Josh Marshall points out in a very smart post, is that it accepts the frame pushed by the Obama campaign. By granting the premise that there is a war on women, Romney has made the Democratic job that much easier; it’s not hard to show Republican hostility to “women’s issues,” and that’s what will stick with the public.