Politics Week in Review

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  • Both President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney hit the campaign trail seeking votes from undecided women independents after Tuesday’s debate, which was considered a big win for the president and apparently didn’t sway many in either direction.

    After his lackluster performance in the first debate, Obama lost ground among women in some states and didn’t help his cause among the undecided. Romney hopes to swing votes his way, while Obama hopes to recoup his losses.

    Romney’s team has released a new commercial that seeks to counter Obama campaign ads that portray the GOP nominee as an extreme opponent of abortion.

    The former Massachusetts governor, over the years, has moved from a pro-choice position to opposition to abortion except in cases of rape, incest or threat to the life of the mother.

    While Romney is not unilaterally opposed to abortion, his running mate, Paul Ryan, is opposed to abortion in all instances. In an interview shortly after being selected for the GOP ticket, Ryan said while he did not agree with Romney on the issue, he realized he was obligated to support Romney’s agenda.

    After Tuesday’s drubbing by Obama, Romney took flak for his statement that he collected “binders full of women” after approaching women’s groups for help in finding female appointees for his administration after he became governor.

    He didn’t initiate the effort to diversify. The Massachusetts Government Appointments Project (MassGAP), a nonpartisan coalition of 25 women’s groups, approached the governor. Once given the lists of potential female candidates, according to the Christian Science Monitor (CSM), Romney did appoint women to the administration.

    “Before the 2002 vote, women accounted for about 30 percent of appointed senior-level Massachusetts government positions. By 2004, 42 percent of new Romney appointments were women, according to MassGAP,” CSM reported.

    But the appointments are not a full indication of how women might fare under a Romney administration in Washington.

    If, for example, Romney were to succeed in repealing Obamacare, as he has pledged, the move will eliminate coverage that benefits women, including a requirement that insurers cover a range of preventive services, including mammograms, prenatal care, and certain cancer screenings with no co-pays, as well as guaranteed contraceptive coverage.

    He also wants to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which doesn’t just offer abortions at some of its affiliates (but not with government funds), but a number of health screenings for women.

    These issues are of particular importance to black women because while white women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, black women tend to contract it at an earlier age – usually before age 40 – and are twice as likely to die from the disease. It is the second most common cause of cancer death among black women, exceeded only by lung cancer.

    For the poor and women who live in areas with limited health care access, safe screenings and the availability of contraception are critical to reproductive health.

    Obama also had made clear he supports pay equity, signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which helps victims of pay discrimination sue for compensation. Romney has not said whether he would have signed the legislation, although his campaign has said Romney supports equal pay for women.

    According to a September New York Times/CBS News poll in six swing states, Obama led significantly over Romney among women, but with less than three weeks before the election, Romney has cut into that lead and his campaign hopes to cut that lead from double- to single-digits.

    Expect the Romney campaign to hammer hard on the numbers of women who are under- or unemployed, arguing that Obama’s positions are meaningless if women can’t find work.

    Other than general platitudes about putting more Americans to work, men and women, though, Romney has not said how he will put American women back to work.

    Like much of what Romney has done throughout the campaign, he criticizes Obama for not putting forth a plan, but he doesn’t offer specifics of his own.

    Black women had an especially high turnout in 2008, which helped secure Obama’s margin of victory. The black vote, especially that of black women, will be especially critical to the president on Election Day.
     

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