The New York Times went all-out Sunday to prove that “centrist women” were fleeing the GOP in droves. Reporter Susan Saulny and six other reporters from across the country filed “Centrist Women Tell of Disenchantment With G.O.P.,” for Sunday’s paper.
Quick question: Is the Times counting the woman featured in the story’s top photograph at a “Rally for Women’s Rights,” holding a Planned Parenthood sign that says “Stop the War On Women!”, as a “centrist”?
Using only anecdotal evidence (“dozens of interviews”), Saulny suggested the GOP was reeling among women, had raised the issue of “access to birth control” when in fact it was the Obama administration who waded into the thicken by demanding the Catholic Church pay for the birth control of its employees in their health insurance plans.
As baby showers go, the party Mary Russell attended to celebrate her niece’s first child was sweet, with about a dozen women offering congratulations over ice cream and cake.
But somewhere between the baby name game and the gifts, what had been light conversation took a sharp turn toward the personal and political — specifically, the battle over access to birth control and other women’s health issues that have sprung to life on the Republican campaign trail in recent weeks.
“We all agreed that this seemed like a throwback to 40 years ago,” said Ms. Russell, 57, a retired teacher from Iowa City who describes herself as an evangelical Christian and “old school” Republican of the moderate mold.
Until the baby shower, just two weeks ago, she had favored Mitt Romney for president.
Not anymore. She said she might vote for President Obama now. “I didn’t realize I had a strong viewpoint on this until these conversations,” Ms. Russell said. As for the Republican presidential candidates, she added: “If they’re going to decide on women’s reproductive issues, I’m not going to vote for any of them. Women’s reproduction is our own business.”
In Iowa, one of the crucial battlegrounds in the coming presidential election, and in other states, dozens of interviews in recent weeks have found that moderate Republican and independent women — one of the most important electoral swing groups — are disenchanted by the Republican focus on social issues like contraception and abortion in an election that, until recently, had been mostly dominated by the economy.
Saulny admitted she had no hard numbers to base her pro-Democrat wishful thinking on.
To what extent women feel alienated remains unclear: most interviews for this article were conducted from a randomly generated list of voters who had been surveyed in a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, and their responses are anecdotal, not conclusive. But the latest comments from the Republican candidates and in the right-wing media, aimed at energizing the party’s conservative base, have been enraging to some women.
But how moderate Republican women gauge social issues as a factor in voting is unclear. Nor have there been many women at the Republican primaries who consider themselves moderate.
After quoting several other disenchanted “Republican” women, the Times ended at a “women’s rights” rally in San Diego (where the Planned Parenthood “Stop the War on Women!” sign was snapped).
A rally for women’s rights in San Diego on Thursday drew Jessica Lopez, 27, a registered independent who said she voted for President George W. Bush in 2004. Ms. Lopez said her choice this year became clear amid the Republican debate on contraception and abortion. “This has really energized me, that I need to get more involved with the Obama campaign,” she said.
Ms. Lopez added: “The G.O.P. has never been so clear about their agenda for women. I’m afraid if we get a Republican president, my health will be up to their personal discretion.”
Certainly sounds reasonable and “centrist” to us.
LifeNews Note: Clay Waters is the director of Times Watch, an MRC project tracking the New York Times. Click here to follow Clay Waters on Twitter.