A ctress Eva Longoria told a standing-room-only crowd in Wheat Ridge on Sunday that it’s an easy choice for women to support President Barack Obama over Republican nominee Mitt Romney, and that women will make the difference in the fall election.
“A lot of you are here because you want your voices heard, and, let me tell you, in November, our voices will be heard,” she told an estimated 400 Obama supporters packed into a conference hall at the Wheat Ridge Recreation Center.
She said that on issue after issue — including fair pay, reproductive choice and access to affordable education — the Obama administration stood behind women, and that it was up to women to make the case to friends and neighbors.
“We have to tell them, ‘You’re a woman, there is no way you can vote Republican,’” she said as the crowd erupted in laughter and applause.
Longoria, a national co-chair of the Obama campaign, joined presidential senior advisor Valerie Jarrett and U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, for the national launch of what the campaign is calling the Women Vote 2012 Summit.
Polling shows Obama holds a double-digit lead among women voters nationally, though he trailed Romney among men by a narrower margin.
“It turns out, women aren’t a constituency group — we are, in fact, a majority,” cheered Kate Chapek, the campaign’s national women’s vote director. “Because women are a majority, we decide elections,” she added.
Chapek said the women in the room — there were a handful of men, but the vast majority were women of all ages, including toddlers who occasionally shouted out their approval — need to deliver the message personally in order to swing the vote.
“The number-one most-trusted source that women rely on in making decisions in how they vote is women like them, which means that every woman in this room has the power to influence this election,” she said.
DeGette told the audience that Obama’s campaign in Colorado — considered one of a handful of crucial swing states that could determine the outcome of the election — would build on U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet’s win two years ago, when the Democrat narrowly defeated Republican Ken Buck in a race that turned on some of the same policy differences emerging in the presidential campaign.
“Sen. Bennet got elected because of women like this in this room,” DeGette said, vowing that Democrats would spend the next four months talking about issues she said motivate women voters.
“There couldn’t be a bigger difference than the difference between our president, Barack Obama, and Mitt Romney. And that’s going to come out really clearly in this election,” she said.
DeGette slammed Romney for his opposition to Planned Parenthood and his support for the so-called Personhood Amendment, a measure that extends the legal definition of a person to the moment of fertilization, and which will be on the Colorado ballot for the third time in three elections this fall.
She said the proposal, which went down to defeat by wide margins in its previous appearances in Colorado, “would not only ban abortion, (but) most forms of birth control, stem cell research and in vitro fertilization. There’s a good place for Mitt Romney to be in this election,” she said facetiously.
“I thought we were in the 21st Century,” DeGette continued. “Frankly, these were debates all of us thought were settled decades ago.” Blasting Republicans for salvos in what Democrats have termed the “war on women,” DeGette predicted the persistent “attacks on women’s fundamental right to get the health care services they need” would prove decisive.
“They really do want to eliminate women’s rights to things like birth control and family planning, and we can’t let it happen, and because of you, we’re not going to let it happen,” she told the crowd, which responded with whoops and hollers.
DeGette introduced Jarrett, a personal friend of the Obamas for more than 20 years, as “the most powerful woman in Washington” before catching herself and adding that fellow House Democrat Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also ranked up there.
“Women are going to make the difference,” said Jarrett, who added with a smile, “We have the ability to work harder — sorry guys.”
Longoria cracked a joke with the same theme.
“Women are the glue in our families. If you need proof, just ask your husband where the scissors are. He doesn’t know,” she said as women in the audience exchanged knowing looks.
More seriously, Longoria said that the ability of women to talk to each other about what they consider important could cement the case that women — who are “disproportionately affected” by health care, education and economic policies, she said — face a clear choice.
She said she joined the campaign four years ago, when she also served as a national co-chair, “to join the conversation” and have the chance to travel the country talking with women. “I love being part of these conversations, I love hearing them, and we just have to keep these conversations going. We have a really big battle ahead of us. It’s not a given that (Obama) is going to get the women’s vote.”
In the face of massive spending by Republicans — Romney is on pace to outraise Obama, which would mark the first time in history an incumbent president raised less than a challenger — Longoria told the women in the room that they have to out-organize the opposition.
“The Republicans are raising a lot of money from a lot of big companies, and you know what, they’re going to drown out your voice,” she said. “They’re going to drown out our voice. So we have to be louder, and we have to be tougher, and we have to work harder because of that. As women, we’ve always fought uphill battles, this is nothing new.”
DeGette mocked a group of about a dozen sign-waving Romney supporters who greeted Obama supporters on the way into the event.
“Maybe the reason I only saw seven women for Romney out there is because those are the only Colorado women supporting him,” she cracked.
One of those women — she held a hand-written sign that read “98,000 unemployed CO women” — was Republican National Committee spokeswoman Ellie Wallace, who is stationed in Colorado for the campaign season. She agreed that the choice between Obama and Romney was clear, but told The Colorado Statesman that it was Romney whose policies will benefit women.
“President Obama hasn’t lived up to the promises he has made to women in our state,” Wallace said in a statement. “Here in Colorado, 98,000 women are out of work and the unemployment rate for women has increased dramatically in the Obama economy. Coloradans deserve a president who will stand up and fight for our women and families. We need a leader like Mitt Romney who understands the economy, has a record in job creation and will get us back to work.”
For Obama supporter Sharon Trefny of Golden, the choice was crystal clear.
“I’m here because I think Obama is going to work very hard for women and has already proven that to be true,” she said, adding that she has “concerns” about Romney and his “old-fashioned views of a woman’s role and a woman’s place.”
After the rally, Longoria told reporters that one reason she had traveled to Colorado was because the state’s big Latino population was another key factor.
“The campaign understands that between the Latino vote and the women’s vote, it’ll make or break this election,” she said, adding, “You get both in me.”
She acknowledged that the campaign can’t take the votes for granted and intends to get out every vote it can.
“Mitt Romney stands on the wrong side of every issue pertaining to Latinos, whether it’s higher education or health care or taxes or immigration,” she said. “I think it’s pretty clear what Latinos are going to vote for — I don’t think it’s a given, I think what we have to worry about in the Latino community is voter apathy. If they were to come out and vote, they would absolutely vote for Obama, so we have to make sure they come out.”