Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Lack of women voters a cause of concern for Romney

Recent polling in the US has shown that, in addition to facing an uphill battle in wooing blacks and Latinos, Mitt Romney has a big problem with women voters.

Why, then, are some Republicans in Congress compounding his gender woes by refusing to back a bill to fight violence against women?

At issue is 1994's Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which has beefed-up criminal prosecutions of violent crimes against women.

Initially drafted by vice-president Joe Biden when he was a Senator from Delaware, VAWA was renewed with bi-partisan majorities in both 2000 and 2005.

However, this year's renewal has hit a snag, because conservative Republicans object to expanding VAWA to cover same-sex couples and undocumented immigrants, while also broadening provisions regarding Native Americans.

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said that, while Republicans support renewing VAWA, its expansion represents "significant waste, ineligible expenditures, immigration fraud and possible unconstitutional provisions. That's unacceptable. Our country has limited resources and every possible taxpayer dollar should go to victims."

California Senator Diane Feinstein, a Democrat, countered that, "If a family comes to the country, and the husband beats his wife to a bloody pulp, do we say, 'Sorry, you're illegal you don't deserve any protection'?"

Although VAWA is credited with helping reduce the problem, sexual and domestic violence remains endemic in America.

In 2011, the Center for Disease Control reported that more than 12 million people annually are physically abused, stalked, or raped by their partner.

In the end, strategic Republican heads in Congress will likely prevail and the VAWA will likely again pass during the coming weeks, with large bi-partisan support.

Still, every time Republicans balk at some issue regarding women's rights - be it on abortion funding, contraception, or equal pay - Democrats will make mountains of political hay.

And that is bad news for Romney, whose already dire numbers with women voters could cause him major problems in November. According to a recent CNN poll, Barack Obama has a 55% to 39% edge with women voters.

With an eye towards bridging the gender gap, Romney's campaign recently extolled the virtues of stay-at-home mothers after a liberal pundit attacked his wife for never having "worked a day in her life".

Recently, eight Republicans on the Senate's judiciary committee voted against the VAWA - in spite of the fact that, in the broader Senate, eight other Republican are co-sponsors of it.

The confusion is emblematic of how the Republicans' conservative wing - heavily influenced by Tea Partiers - has many Republicans running scared.

But, at the end of the day, Romney isn't a Right-wing ideologue. His best hope for capturing the White House lies in attracting moderately-conservative independents. And to do that he must captain a party that isn't driven by social conservatives.

During a recent TV interview with ABC, Romney said Obama had better "start packing".

But whether the president will be stuffing his suitcase for a post-election victory celebration in Hawaii or vacating the White House for Romney may depend on Romney's ability to rein in his party's Right-wing ideologues - and win the trust of women.

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