Guest Columns

STEPHENS: WAR ON WOMEN STRATEGY WON’T WORK THIS TIME

Sen. Udall: Women are not one-issue voters

GUEST COLUMNIST

Democrats are wondering why it’s not working this time. In 2010, the War on Women strategy helped U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet edge out Republican Ken Buck in a close election. In 2012, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney found his campaign on the losing end of the WOW attack. However, in 2014, the ploy isn’t working so well for incumbent Sen. Mark Udall in a tight election against challenger Cory Gardner. Despite millions spent by the Udall campaign on deceptive birth control-focused ads, a show vote on the Senate floor about birth control, and numerous speeches about… wait for it… birth control, his opponent’s poll numbers have actually grown and the two are polling even.

A recent Colorado Statesman article, “Women’s Reproductive Rights at Issue in Senate Race” suggests birth control is the top public policy issue in this race. In reality, it’s only the main issue in the mind of one candidate, Senator Udall. Although Gardner favors making birth control pills available to women without a prescription, his campaign has focused on numerous issues important to women including improving the economy, education reform, affordable healthcare, the environment, and other issues that impact the lives of women on a daily basis.

This inclusive strategy is appealing to women because Colorado women are not one-issue voters. A recent poll by Magellan Strategies of independent female voters in Colorado, found that 86 percent “prioritize lots of issues when voting,” not merely abortion and birth control. This isn’t surprising. Birth control is widely available and has been universally legal since a 1972 Supreme Court ruling. No member of Congress can make it illegal even if he or she wanted to. Congress’s decisions, however, do impact the economy, health care costs, and other vital areas of our lives.

The same poll found that a majority of independent women do not think that the government should pay for birth control. A similar percentage say they “don’t fear a government bureaucrat taking birth control away from them, what they fear are politicians using the issue of ‘access to birth control’ as a political tactic to scare them into voting a certain way.”

Perhaps this explains why Udall’s recent bill concerning the Supreme Court’s Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision failed to give the senator a spike in approval ratings. The Court’s decision protects family owned businessmen and women’s religious rights from government intrusion. Equally important, it does nothing to prevent women from accessing birth control. Hobby Lobby’s employee insurance will continue to cover the majority of types of birth control mandated by Obamacare and those not covered, remain legal and available. Udall’s bill would allow the government to force family business owners to violate their religious rights and cover abortion-inducing drugs. Not surprisingly, the bill failed to pass and is likely unconstitutional. This Udall stunt is the very definition of a “show vote” intended to pander rather than solve an actual problem — insulting not just to women but all Americans.

If I could give some advice to my Democratic colleagues, reconsider your War on Women tactics. While there is a diversity of opinion about these issues among women, one thing is clear: We are not one-issue voters. Stop treating us that way.

State Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument, is a former 2014 U.S. Senate candidate and House Majority Leader in the legislature.