Predictably, this is an issue the right is now jumping on to drum up excitement in the base because their bumbling, horribly flawed presidential candidates aren’t exciting anyone. If last month’s jobs numbers weren’t so strong, do you really think Republicans would be focusing all of their energy on this issue? I doubt it. I have to point out that serial flip-flopper Mitt Romney didn’t seem to have a problem with these guidelines when he was governor of Massachusetts, but now that he is running for the Republican nomination he is suddenly outraged! Shocker!
Want more evidence that this is less about the issue and more about politics. Conservative leader Tony Perkins said Thursday that social issues will become more important, because the economy is improving. So what we are seeing play out is an attempt to change the conversation from the economy to divisive social issues. Hey Doc, let’s jump into our Deloreans and go back to 1985 (or maybe 1885) and have a classic culture war battle!
The GOP must believe it’s 15 or 20 years ago when campaigning on social issues was a winning strategy. House Republicans have ignored the economy and jobs for more than a year and instead are pushing an extreme right-wing ideological agenda. Last spring, they brought the government to the brink of a shutdown unless federal funding for things like preventative health care and cancer screenings offered by Planned Parenthood were eliminated. Their budget is so dangerous that even Newt Gingrich called it radical and “right-wing social engineering.” It’s crazy ideas like these that are driving congressional approval numbers to all-time lows and giving House Democrats a shot at retaking the majority.
Republican critics of the new HHS rule may think they can score political points, but I bet this turns off many women who are tired of being lectured at by men on how to take care of their bodies. It goes without saying that women voters, many of them independents, in suburban districts, and moderates, will play a crucial role in the upcoming election. In 2008, women made up 52% of the electorate. Obama won them with 56%. I bet if the Republicans keep up this strategy of attacking women’s health, Obama does better. Romney, while silent on the issue when he was Governor, can’t be happy that this is the focus of the CPAC conference because it exposes his weakness on social issues.
So, I hope Republicans focus all of their attention on birth control and other social issues for the rest of the year, because that’ll just mean the economy is improving. If that’s the case, President Obama wins reelection relatively easily.
Thornell is a senior vice president at SKDKnickerbocker, a leading political consulting and public affairs firm based in Washington, D.C. and New York. He is the former spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and senior advisor to Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).