A group of Republican women told a crowd in Lone Tree last Thursday that it’s the sagging economy — not divisive social issues some called distractions — that should steer women voters to pick GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney over President Barack Obama.
Despite recent polling that shows Obama running stronger with women voters than men — although the most recent poll of Colorado voters shows the Democrat leading Romney among both sexes — speakers at a Women for Mitt event at the Lone Tree Arts Center made a case that women could swing the state’s coveted nine electoral votes toward the Republican.
After recounting stories that depicted the tenacity of her female forebearers, conservative commentator Liz Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, accused the Obama campaign of pandering to women with a message aimed at their biology, ignoring all else.
“The Democratic Convention and the Obama administration and the Democrats’ pitch to women this time around seems to be focused almost entirely on a guarantee that the government will pay for everybody’s contraception,” said Cheney, a former State Department official and current Fox News Channel contributor, as the crowd of roughly 200 women — and a scattering of men — erupted in laughter.
“As I watched the convention and I thought about my grandmothers and my great grandmothers and the dreams they had, I wondered to myself, is it really the case that that is the limit of the dreams that those speakers have for their daughters and granddaughters? Don’t you all think we should aim may-be just a little bit higher than that?”
Cheney chided the Obama campaign for being dismissive of stay-at-home mothers, citing a much-publicized remark made earlier this year by a Democratic consultant who said that Romney’s wife, Ann, “actually never worked a day in her life.”
“I’m a hundred percent confident, you pick any stay-at-home mom, and she will know more in her little finger about how to balance a budget, about how not to live beyond her means, than the entire Obama administration combined,” Cheney said. She added, “On Nov. 6, let’s make sure we make Barack Obama a stay-at-home dad.”
Former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton told the crowd that Obama’s economic policies have hit women particularly hard, creating an opportunity to erase a long-standing gender gap that typically sees women breaking for Democratic candidates.
“Colorado women are energized,” she said. “They understand the economy because we’re the ones who put gas in our cars, and when it’s $3.80 that I just paid yesterday to do that, we know that something’s not right. We know when food costs are escalating dramatically, we need a change.”
Following the event, Norton told The Colorado Statesman that she believes Colorado women will reject attempts by the Obama campaign to compartmentalize voters, and instead vote their pocketbooks.
“For the first time in seven years, we have an unemployment rate that’s higher than the national average, so for Colorado women, the economy and what’s happening and Obama’s policies have been failing us,” she said, pointing to state employment figures released that morning. “The Obama team wants there to be distractions, they don’t want to talk about his record with the economy, because it’s failed. But we continue to talk about it.”
An Obama campaign spokeswoman told The Statesman that the president’s record — from economic policies to health care reform and education — demonstrates that he is concerned with the very issues raised by speakers at the Romney event.
“This is a president who gets it,” said Clo Ewing. “He doesn’t look at these issues as distractions, he doesn’t see these issues as quote-unquote women’s issues. He sees these issues as America’s issues.”
“Across this country women are a growing number of breadwinners or co-breadwinners in their homes and they recognize that President Obama has shown a commitment to issues and policies that will help level the playing field for them and their families,” Ewing said.
She suggested that Romney’s pick of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate should tell women concerned about their economic status plenty. Though Romney won’t take a firm position on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, she said, “Paul Ryan made very clear where he was — Paul Ryan chose to vote against it.”
The Obama campaign kicked off a series of national Women Vote Summits in Wheat Ridge this summer with an event headlined by actress Eva Longoria and senior presidential advisor Valerie Jarrett, a friend of the Obamas for more than two decades, who lent a personal touch to her testimonial.
Romney’s daughter-in-law and a woman who worked as his executive assistant when he headed the 2002 Winter Olympics conveyed a similar up-close look at the presidential candidate they support.
Laurie Romney — whose grandmother often calls to remind her that her husband, Matt, is “the cutest Romney” — vouched that her father-in-law “is probably the most frugal person I’ve ever met, maybe aside from my husband, who was raised by him,” and went on to regale the audience with tales of extraordinary scrimping.
“Mitt is vigilant — he’s constantly watching the air conditioning all day, and it’s turned off unless it’s absolutely essential,” she said. Doing the dishes in the Romney household can be a real chore, she added, because “if you turn for just a minute to do something else, he’ll turn off the water.” In addition, she said, her father-in-law “spends a lot of time packing and consolidating the garbage because the Waste Management company in his area charges by the bag.”
Romney’s parsimony, she said, is a deeply ingrained trait that she suggested would serve the nation well.
“Watching his father, George, eat an entire batch of home-made ice cream that was accidentally sweetened with salt, so that it wouldn’t go to waste, had a huge impact on Mitt. Waste is simply not tolerated,” she said as the crowd laughed appreciatively.
Donna Tillery, the executive assistant Romney inherited when he took over the Salt Lake City Olympics, told warm stories about how her boss encouraged her to pursue a degree and made sure she stuck with it. She said she spoke from experience when she told women voters that Romney was the right choice to fix the economy.
“I’m working hard to repair the financial damage of the last four years, but I can’t afford — we can’t afford another four years of failed economic policy,” she said. “We must elect a president who has the experience and the best plan to lead our country out of this economic meltdown. I know that women have been hit particularly hard by this economy. I’ve seen Mitt in action, so I believe it when I hear him and Ann speak passionately about elevating women — really, all Americans, from financial stagnation and poverty, by ensuring they have the means to transform their own lives through hard work.”