The contest for President has left Republicans fending off accusations that the party is insensitive to women. Barack Obama's campaign is trying to convince women voters that the GOP has abandoned them on abortion and other keys issues. IPR's Amanda Vinicky spoke with some of the women who are part of the Republican contingent to the party's National Convention in Tampa, to see if they feel disenfranchised by the GOP. (photo courtesy NPR)
As Ann Romney told the story at the opening night of the Republican National Convention she first met her husband 42 years ago, at a high school dance. It's safe to say it's been awhile since Mitt Romney has had to court a lady. Now he's having to court millions of them. But that's the position the GOP's pick for President finds himself in heading into November's election. Polls shows women prefer Obama by wide margins.
"It's the moms who've always had to work a little harder to make everything right, it's the moms of this nation, single married widowed who really hold this contry together. Daughters, you know it's true don't you."
The wannabe future first lady's convention speech was a clear attempt at winning them over.
"I looooove woooomen. And I hear your voices!"
But Democrats are voicing an opposite message, a message that Republicans are waging "war on Women."
"There's no war on women. There's no war on women."
That's Barb Peterson, well at least that's what her delegate name badge says. But those who know her, including former Governor Jim Edgar, know her by another name:
"Bobbie Peterson. Someone new did this. 'They didn't know you, huh?' "No, they didn't know me but, people are looking at this. Edgar looked at this and said 'when did you become a Barb?" (laughs)
After almost twenty years as a state central committeewoman, Peterson and Edgar are on a first name basis. Her dark brown hair and energy defy that she's a 78 year old great grandmother. She loves hugs. And politics:
"Politics is my personal addiction. I never smoked pot or did any of these stupid drugs that are out there that are ruining everybody's life. I was never a drinker. In fact I ordered a Coke, but I found my addiction. POLITICS!"
Republican, politics, to be precise. And she dismisses the notion that the GOP is hostile to her interests. Democrats point to Republican opposition to a measure intended to ensure pay equity for women. And then there's Congressman Todd Akin, who set off a national uproar with his statement that used the term "legitimate rape."
Romney has gone out of his way to distance himself from those remarks, but it has brought the abortion issue to the forefront. And the national Republican party platform adopted this week opposes abortion. It states that Republicans "assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed." No exceptions are listed. Leading critics to assert that the platform mirrors Akin's beliefs, but in nicer terms. Phyllis Schlafly, the prominent pro-life activist from the St. Louis area dismisses the controversy.
"The platform has not been changed since 1984, it was identical when Henry Hyde of Illinois and I were on it. Respects the fundamental individual right of the unborn baby. It's been the same way for all these years, because we're run on it and won on it."
And what Schlafly says is gold among some conservatives. As she stood in the aisle alongside the rest of the Missouri delegation, fans continually shook her hand and posed with her for photos. And as for the so-called war on women? Schlafly, who's known as an "anti-feminist," dismisses that as well.
"I think it's ludicrious, a complete phony issue, republicans have more women elected to congress in 2010 than democrats and we're very supportive of all things that would benefit women. War on women is completely phony."
Another Republican woman called the war on women "lame." Another described it as "a fallacy." Sentate Republican Leader Christine Radogno says it makes her laugh.
"I think it's the democrats' wishful thinking. What they think might be a wedge issue so they can avoid talking about the economy."
Radogno was the first woman in Illinois who was elected to hold one of the most important positions in state politics, that of a legislative leader. To that end, is she living proof that there's no GOP war on women?
While Radogno laughs it off, Bobbi Peterson takes it more to heart.
"Women take care of themselves. Women rule the world and maybe some of these men who are creating this war on women, they don't have a clue, what he plan is, what the underground is ready to do. There's no war on women. We can take on anybody who wants to battle us."
There's no denying that this presidential race is a battle first and foremost between two men, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. But both men are battling for womens' support.
Support Your Public Radio Station