Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is greeted… (Phil Long / Associated Press )
ZANESVILLE, Ohio -- Women are a key demographic in this election, especially in a swing state like Ohio, a fact that’s become evident as Paul Ryan treks across the state on a bus tour. That’s not necessarily in anything that Ryan says – his stump speech remains focused on the economy, Mitt Romney and the failures of Barack Obama. But he brings his wife Janna and his three children on stage with him before each speech, and in all of his events, Ryan has been preceded by Ohio’s Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, who tailors her speech to female listeners.
At a small gathering in a high school gym here, Taylor stood up on stage, telling the men in the audience that she had a special message just for the women.
“Women, we’ve been hearing about the war on women,” she said. “Let me explain to you what I think the war on women is. We have the highest poverty rate that we’ve had in the last 17 years. Over 5 million women in this country are unemployed. Four hundred thousand have lost their jobs in the last four years. That’s a war on women, to me.”
It was a message she had offered the night before at a Romney-Ryan rally, where she was joined by a female nursing student who voiced her support for Romney and sang “Proud to be an American,” and by State Rep. Christina Hagan, who also spoke specifically about women voters.
Taylor also tells a story of spying on her 18-year-old son talking with his friends in his room – they weren’t talking about girls, they were talking about politics, she said, illuminating the importance of the election to all generations.
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The family-friendly message was reinforced by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who spoke before Ryan in Zanesville, introducing his own wife and family, and reminding the crowd of mostly older and white voters that “when people work, moms and dads are happier, and children do better.”
Democrats have specifically targeted Republicans this election year on issues that rank high among women. An ad running in swing states criticizes Romney for pledging to cut Planned Parenthood, while an ad by the actress Lena Dunham speaks to young women voters about Obama as a guy who “cares whether you get birth control.”
Republicans have been playing defense on the issue after controversial remarks about rape by Republicans running for the U.S. Senate in both Missouri and Indiana. Some Democratic groups also mocked Romney for his comment during the third presidential debate that he had brought “binders full of women” to the statehouse when he was elected governor.
Women – and men – at the Zanesville rally, Ryan’s second stop of the day, also learned about Mitt Romney’s feelings towards women, specifically his wife, Ann, in a biography video played before Ryan came on stage.
“I can’t explain love,” Romney says to the camera, talking about Ann, adding that his wife’s job raising their sons was more important than his own.
The video was perhaps a welcome distraction for Ryan, who seemed muted at the Zanesville rally, which drew a crowd of 500 and was not as boisterous as his event with Romney the night before. He launched into his stump speech, joking about how similar Zanesville is to his hometown of Janesville.
“Janesville’s not all that different from Zanesville; it's not just the J and Z but in the kind of towns that we are,” he said. “We have got to help these people who are stuck in between. Who are in the middle of the earning years when they’re supposed to be building for a family, saving for a family, putting themselves on a path to pursue their version of happiness.”
Ryan criticized Obama’s tax plans, lauding Romney as a man with principles who knows how to put people back to work in a way Obama does not.
Ryan has three more stops in Ohio throughout the day, and will rendezvous with Romney again for another Ohio rally Sunday night.