Mitt’s pitch to women

    In his convention-eve gig on Fox News Sunday, Mitt Romney tried hard to connect with women voters. His wife Ann pointed out, for instance, that he had done a lot of the grocery shopping when she’d been sick with MS back in 2002; that Mitt had done some of the laundry earlier in the weekend; and that Mitt had even “ironed his own shirt” that very morning. So there you go, ladies, he’s more Alan Alda than android.But his big bid to narrow the gender chasm came during the interview with Chris Wallace. Romney said: “With regards to women’s health care, look, I’m the guy that was about to get health care for all of the women and men in my state. They’re talking about it on the federal level, we actually did something….”Wallace: “So you’re saying, ‘look at Romneycare?'”Romney: “Well, absolutely. I am very proud of what we did, and the fact that we helped women and men and children in our state.”Wow. There’s something we haven’t often seen: Romney openly embracing his Massachusetts health reform law. Throughout the long primary season, he rarely brought it up at all. He talked about it only when his rivals invoked it, and he defended it only as necessary. He shrank from touting his signature gubernatorial achievement because GOP conservatives rightly viewed it as the policy template for Obamacare (especially the mandate requiring citizens to buy coverage) – and they hate it accordingly. Indeed, back on Aug. 8, conservative talking heads detonated their heads when a Romney spokeswoman said something nice about Romneycare. Ann Coulter said the flak should be fired, and Erick Erickson said that praising Romneycare was “monumental idiocy.”And yet, there was Romney yesterday, touting it proactively – on Fox News, no less. How come?Because, really, he had no choice.He’s currently on the losing side of a massive gender deficit; in the latest CNN poll, when registered voters were asked which candidate was more in touch with the problems women face, they chose President Obama over Romney by a margin of 35 percentage points. Plus, he’s saddled with a Republican party that’s dominated by male ideologues bent on invading women’s private lives. Plus, the party’s misogynist du jour is a biologically ignorant right-winger who refuses to cede the spotlight in a key Senate race.Romney can’t swing any women voters if all he’s doing is defending the GOP and shaving down the sharpest edges of its social extremism. And it’s not enough to simply bury Rick Santorum in an obscure speaking slot (the ex-candidate who’s anathema to most women is scheduled to speak around 7:30 tomorrow night, when he’ll likely get trumped by Seinfeld re-runs on TBS). No, if Romney is truly going to narrow the gender gap, he needs a positive narrative of his own. Hence Romneycare. That’s why he brought it up, even at the risk of ticking off conservatives again.Granted, part of his pitch yesterday was the usual con job. Even while touting what he did for women in Massachusetts, he again sought to distinguish Romneycare from Obamacare by voicing his determination to repeal the latter. Conservatives could give him a pass on touting Romneycare as long as he stays firm on repeal. (Conservative strategist Keith Appell told Politico yesterday: “What’s important for Romney to do is maintain what he has promised conservatives – that he will repeal Obamacare on Day One of his presidency. And all conservatives, in Congress and at the grassroots level, need to hold his feet to the fire on that.”) Here’s the con job: Repealing Obamacare would hurt many of the women Romney is now trying to woo. For instance, a new reform law provision, which kicked in on August 1, offers a range of preventive services to women with no co-pays or deductibles – on everything from annual well-woman visits and HIV screenings to diabetes screenings and domestic violence counseling. (Not that anyone knows any of this. I never hear the Obama campaign tout the female-friendly benefits of its own law.)But it’s at least noteworthy that Romney was willing yesterday to laud his own Massachusetts record (will he do it again in his acceptance speech? prominently, or in passing?). Because, clearly, his campaign realizes that he can’t narrow the gender chasm with mere paeans to his proficiency with the family laundry.——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

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