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Female voters gather behind Obama

A poll shows women giving the president a lead over Mitt Romney in battleground states. That's because of Republicans' focus on contraception, abortion and other social issues, the DNC chairwoman says.

April 02, 2012|By Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times
  • Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Ron Sachs / European Pressphoto…)

The Republican presidential candidates' focus on issues such as contraception, abortion and healthcare will push female voters into President Obama's corner and provide a crucial boost in getting him reelected, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz told phone bank volunteers Monday.

"I know Barack Obama will be returned to the White House … carried on the shoulders of American women because that's how he got there in the first place, with a 13-point gender gap in 2008," she told 92 cheering women gathered at a Pasadena seafood restaurant. "Women in this country voted for Barack Obama in 2008 because we know that as mothers, as sisters, as daughters, as wives, what's at stake."

Wasserman Schultz's remarks came as a poll showed that Obama had opened a lead over GOP front-runner Mitt Romney nationally and among voters in a dozen swing states, driven by the female vote.

The USA Today/Gallup poll found Obama led Romney 51% to 42% in those battleground states, and that while the president was virtually tied with Romney among male voters, he led by 18 percentage points among women.

In an interview, Wasserman Schultz said this was driven by the Republicans' focus on social issues, such as whether health insurance should have to cover contraception.

"I think women in America have seen just how out of step and out of touch the Republicans are — any of them, Romney, [Rick] Santorum, the whole field — with the values and priorities of women," she said. "The Republicans … are so busy embracing extremism and trying to out-right-wing each other, they have really left women feeling bereft."

The phone volunteers were especially vocal when Wasserman Schultz and others brought up radio host Rush Limbaugh's labeling of a Georgetown University law student as a "slut" after she testified in Congress about the importance of insurers covering contraception.

"If doing your civic duty and testifying about an important women's issue is what results in that, then I guess we should all join the club of sluts and prostitutes," said Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park), a national co-chairwoman of Obama's reelection campaign.

In their phone calls, the volunteers focused on Obama's healthcare law, which is before the Supreme Court. Wasserman Schultz said that as a breast cancer survivor, the provision requiring insurers to cover people with preexisting conditions had special resonance. On Dec. 7, 2007, the day of her diagnosis, the Florida congresswoman said she became "one job loss away from being uninsurable."

If Republicans are successful in November, she said, they would repeal the law, putting 45% of Americans with a preexisting condition at risk and raising costs for women.

"That means that being a woman would once again be a preexisting condition. Simply having ovaries would be a preexisting condition again. That means they can charge us 50% more simply for being a woman," she said. "We're not going back. That's what this election is about."

She conceded that the 2012 election lacked the excitement of 2008, but urged the volunteers to recognize that it was equally vital.

"So while 2008 was historic, what 2012 is, is personal," she said. "It's personal for all of us because the dramatic change that would happen in our lives if we go in the direction that Mitt Romney and Republicans want to take us is unacceptable."

seema.mehta@latimes.com

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