Will Women Vote For Rick Santorum?


That’s the question The Politico is asking

Democrats have an unexpected new foil in their effort to label the GOP as hostile to women: Rick Santorum.

After hammering away for a year at the message that Republicans are indifferent to women’s health and economic well-being, President Barack Obama’s party has been handed a nearly perfect political punching bag in the former Pennsylvania senator, whose down-the-line cultural conservatism is a major selling point in the 2012 primaries.

In all fairness, that’s all Democrats have, to personally assault Republicans. They, and Obama, certainly can’t run on their record.

Gender issues have taken center stage in recent days as Santorum has made incendiary comments suggesting women not be allowed to serve in combat roles in the military (he later said he was concerned men would want to protect them). Santorum has also stood by his opposition to contraception, reiterating his position that it shouldn’t be covered by the national health-care law because it is “inexpensive.” While the ex-senator doesn’t favor outlawing birth control, he is personally opposed to it.

Santorum’s opposition is personal, and he further stated in that same interview that he would not push legislation that supports his personal beliefs.

These issues may work in the ex-senator’s favor in the Republican presidential primary. But to longtime Democratic women operatives, Santorum’s rise in the presidential race represents the return of an old rival – a 1990s-era culture warrior whose political comeback is as shocking as it is inadvertently useful for the Democratic cause.

“He constantly says things that are offensive to women,” said Kim Gandy, former president of the National Organization for Women. “Regardless of whether Republican women like some of his policies, I think they’re going to be so turned off by his judgmental stand on the independence and essential rights of women that they won’t be able to vote for him.”

On the flip side, perhaps women should be themselves offended that Democrats think that they aren’t capable of affording the small costs in paying for birth control themselves, and so worthless that women have to get someone else to pay.

But, on the flip side of that, the focus on social issues has always been my concern with Santorum. He’s not a bad fiscal conservative, but, not a great one. But, then, most Republicans aren’t actually great fiscal conservatives, once they actually get elected to the federal Congress. Rick is pretty much the norm. What he is known more for is his social positions, and they can be a good line of attack from Democrats, as we see in the Politico story, which attempts to paint Santorum as anti-women. There was another at Washington Monthly, which paints Rick as a Christian fundamentalist zealot, which even James Joyner bought in to.

As The Politico points out, Santorum rose to prominence debating the dangers of abortion. Politico also has some good points about Santorum losing women big when he lost his Senate seat.

But, Santorum is certainly not “anti-women.” He doesn’t see women as creatures that should simply be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. And, he doesn’t see them as simply a voter block to be pandered to, like Democrats. Santorum will need to head this Liberal talking point off at the pass, without losing the focus on his economic message. Democrats would love to make this election about anything other than the dismal state of the economy, the skyrocketing debt and deficit, the exploding entitlements, people dropping out of the workforce, the high unemployment among blacks and under-30′s, the personal debt of citizens, America’s low standing in the world, and rising energy prices, among others. If Santorum gains the nomination, Democrats will deflect from the real issues this country faces, and attempt to peel off voter blocks by personally attacking Santorum. He needs to get ahead of the curve.

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