"The Sunday Political Brunch" -- April 15, 2012

Romney in RI.jpg

(Providence, Rhode Island) – It was another busy week on the Presidential campaign trail. On Wednesday, Mitt Romney was here in Rhode Island (photo above), which is one of five states holding primaries on April 24. The campaigns of Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul will be here this week.

“Loose Cannons!” – Presidential candidates love to have surrogates who speak the candidates' mantras (or not) to the press; but, on occasion, those surrogates have been known to suffer from foot-in-mouth disease. This week is was Democratic Party strategist Hilary Rosen who "stepped in it" by saying Mitt Romney’s wife Ann “never worked a day in her life.” The implication was that - as a stay-at-home mom - Mrs. Romney had no authority to advise her husband on economic issues. When called on to apologize, Rosen said Mitt Romney should stop “hiding behind his wife’s skirt,” which infuriated Republicans even more, as well as Democrats (including repudiation by the President).

“Loose Cannons II” – The Rosen flap reminded me of another gem from earlier in the campaign. A Rick Santorum surrogate named Foster Friess said of the controversial health-care law paying for birth control: “Back in my day, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly." The outcry changed a debate over religious freedom (which Republicans were winning) to a debate over women’s health care choices (which Democrats were winning).

“Damage Control”- The big question about the Rosen gaffe is whether it will have long-lasting impact. The President and First Lady have both distanced themselves from Rosen’s remarks, and Obama campaign chief, David Axelrod, called on Rosen to apologize, which she finally did, begrudgingly. In the short term, this brought a lot of bad press to the Obama reelection effort. Axelrod was probably ripping his hair out over a controversy that the White House didn’t need. Political blowups like this often have a short shelf life, e.g. the Santorum aspirin-birth-control issue, which died after about two weeks. So, we’ll see.

“This Issue Could Have Legs” – Aside from the obvious offense taken by many stay-at-home moms, why is this issue so important? First, women vote in higher numbers than men. According to Roper, 53 percent of voters in the 2008 Presidential election were women; 47 percent were men. Fifty-six percent of women voted for Senator Barack Obama, versus 43 percent for Senator John McCain, so the gender gap matters. If Republicans can close the gap among female voters by 3 or 4 percentage points, the GOP could change the outcome of a close election.

“It’s the Economy, Stupid!” – The mantra of the 1992 Bill Clinton campaign is one of the reasons why the Romney-Rosen controversy is so important. Why? Because women, whether they work in or out of the home - or both - control the purse strings of the U.S. economy. Even if their spouses are the primary or sole breadwinners, women still make most of the consumer purchasing decisions. This is my 34th year in television and radio, so I'll let you in on a little secret. Advertisers will pay top dollar for programs that draw the highest number of women ages 25 to 54. That’s because they are the “desired demographic” that makes the most buying decisions. In fact, it doesn’t really matter who wins the overall ratings; what matters is who delivers the women who buy the products! According to Roper, 66 percent of all voters in the last Presidential election were between the ages of 30 and 64; and, again, well over half of them were women.

“Si, Senorita!” – Okay, here is the other key to campaign 2012. The race is being fought primarily on two fronts: female voters and Hispanic voters. You will see both campaigns aggressively court both groups because they hold the keys to the White House. In 2008, Hispanic voters went for Obama over McCain by a whopping 61 percent to 39 percent. In 2000 they went for Al Gore over George W. Bush by a similar 62 to 35 percent. But, in 2004, Bush really narrowed the gap, with John Kerry getting 53 percent of Hispanics to 44 percent for Bush. Bush and his brother Jeb did even better with Latin voters in their home states of Texas and Florida. Hispanics are also the fastest growing demographic group in the U.S., and one that is not beholden to either political party.

“Vice President?” – With Rick Santorum dropping out of the race this week, Romney’s nomination is all but certain. So whom will he choose for his running mate? I keep saying the favorite is New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, for all of the above reasons! New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado are key Western swing states that went for Obama last time, but could flip back to the GOP this time. All have significant Latino populations.

Have a great week, and leave your comments by clicking the comments button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

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