Can Rand Paul Get Votes From Women? (Hint: He Already Has)

Just a week ago,
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a leading GOP figure for libertarian
policies geared around reducing the size, scope, and spending, was
assailed at for prematurely declaring that the “war on
women” is over and the women had won. According to Paul:

“The whole thing with the War on Women, I sort of laughingly
say, ‘yeah there might have been,’ but the women are winning

After wrangling with stats that showed women surging ahead
of men in some areas and lagging behind in others, Charlotte Alter

The fact that Rand Paul thinks the war on women is over means he
had no idea what it was about in the first place. Nobody accused
the Republican party of standing in the way of women going to
veterinary school– women’s financial and educational advancements
are propelled by social changes that aren’t being specifically
debated on the Senate floor. The “War on Women” is about abortion
rights and access to affordable contraception more than anything,
and Paul is fighting against both of them.

Read the whole piece here

Yesterday in The New York Times, columnist Maureen Dowd
interviewed Paul and seemed more sympathetic to him, even dubbing
him “not-so-bland,” which practically passes for a Mae West-style
come-on from the the author of Are Men Necessary? The
junior senator has figured out a legitimate way to “make Monica
haunt Hillary’s dreams.”

Paul reiterated to me that he disdains the Democratic “hypocrisy
within the party that wants to blame Republicans for somehow not
liking women, that somehow we’re this party that has some kind of
war going on, and they have as a leader and one of the most
prominent fund-raising people in their party still to this very
day, a person who seems in some ways to have his own private war on

He’s speaking of
Bill Clinton, of course. Dowd continues:

Veterans of Hillaryworld admired Paul’s savvy appeal to the
base. As one noted dryly, “When you’re playing with the hard-core
base, there’s no statute of limitations on crazy fooling around
with an intern in the Oval Office.”

I agree that Paul’s aim was true. He distracted from the
Republicans’ abysmal war on women by pointing at an abysmal moment
in feminist history, when feminists betrayed their principles to
defend a president who had behaved in a regressive way with women
because he had progressive policies on women.

Instead of owning up, Bill Clinton forced his humiliated wife, a
feminist icon, and women in his cabinet — Madeleine Albright and
Donna Shalala — into the dreadful position of defending him when he
was lying about his conduct.

Paul also tells Dowd, “I’ve never met a Republican who was
against birth control or who thought that somehow we would try to
prevent women from having birth control.”

Read the whole column.

Is Rand Paul accurate when he says that Republicans aren’t
against birth control? I did a quick search for GOP leaders who
have inveighed against the very idea of contraception. Not an
exhaustive search by any means, but nothing turned up, even among
the strongly Catholic folks such as Rick Santorum. There’s no
question that the Republicans are against often, even typically,
against state-funded birthcontrol, and strongly against forcing
employers to cover contraceptives via Obamacare mandates (among
liberals and
those further out on the left
, there is often no distinction
between allowing something and having the government pay for

There’s no question that Paul is strongly anti-abortion. Yet
contra Charlotte Alter in Time, it’s far from clear that being in
favor of abortion in any way reflects gender. As Gallup has shown
for decades, men’s and women’s positions on abortion
are essentially the same
(indeed, by some measures, men are
more supportive of abortion).
Pew documents
that women are more likely to favor the
contraceptive mandates in Obamacare and they are more likely to
identify as Democrats (in 2012, for instance, about 52 percent of
women identified as Democratic, compared to about 42 percent of
men; while the numbers change, that 10-point gap has stayed pretty

Yet it’s clear that on at least some issues, Republicans who
follow Rand Paul’s lead on foreign policy and war are in synch with
female voters. Women, Pew finds, are substantially more likely than
men to favor diplomacy and cast a cold eye on military strength as
a means to “achieving peace.”

The “War on Women” meme isn’t going away any time soon, of
course, but as women achieve economic parity with men (as Alter
notes, women make up 57 percent of college students and 48 percent
of med school grads; Millennial women make 93 percent of what their
male counterparts do), it’s likely that gender will fade as a clear
indicator of voting preference. If Rand Paul can charm Maureen Dowd
– and score points with “veterans of Hillaryworld” – while
convincing women that he’s not an existential threat to
contraception, he may be a national GOP figure who will close the
gender gap in 2016. In his 2010 Senate race, after all,
he won women
by 1 percentage point over his challenger.

from Hit & Run

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