Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
This is the tenth story of an 11-article series leading up to the Nov. 6 presidential election that will break down the issues dominating political debates. Check back next Thursday for our segment on the Middle East and the troops.
The presidential candidates are zoning in on female voters with less than two weeks until the election.
President Barack Obama attracted 1 percent more of the male vote than Arizona Sen. John McCain during the 2008 election. However, he captured the female vote by a 13 percent lead over McCain, winning more than half of female voters nationwide, according to CNN.
Despite those numbers, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has been making gains. According to the results of a Pew Research Center Poll gathered after the first presidential debate on Oct. 3, The lead Obama had in mid-September has disappeared. The standings dropped from an 18-point lead for Obama to a 47 percent tie between both candidates among likely voters.
Obama’s re-election campaign launched an advertisement in July featuring a woman calling the idea of Romney being elected “scary” for women. The ad claims that Romney supports overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 deciding Supreme Court case on the issue of abortion, and denying coverage for female contraceptives.
The Romney ad “Dear Daughter” features a baby girl and her mother. In welcoming her to the U.S., a voice-over said her share of Obama’s debt is more than $50,000 and told her the poverty rate for women was at its highest point in 17 years. The ad ends by telling the baby that this is what Obama’s policies have done for women.
The female demographic has been sought by both candidates in this election. According to an Oct. 17 Gallup poll, women in swing states have “gender-specific priorities” that dictate what issues they think are most important when choosing who to support.
When asked open-ended questions on what they think is the most important issue for women in the election, 39 percent of women said abortion was most important, followed by 19 percent who said jobs and 18 percent who said health care.
Thirty-eight percent of men who were asked what the most important issue for their gender in the election was said jobs, followed by 37 percent who said the economy and 10 percent who said the federal budget.
Both candidates have made specific plans to target the female demographic on what will matter most to them when they fill out their ballots.
During the first term of his presidency, Obama passed the Affordable Care Act that requires insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions and an end to price discrimination based on gender. The act also aims to cover preventive screenings like mammograms without a co-pay.
While in Delaware, Ohio, on Oct. 10 Romney told reporters he would immediately work to de-fund Planned Parenthood, a health care organization that provides education and services including abortion.
“I’ve said time and time again, I’m a pro-life candidate,” Romney said during a restaurant stop Oct. 10. “I’ll be a pro-life president. The actions I’ll take immediately are to remove funding for Planned Parenthood. It will not be part of my budget.”
Romney’s policy on abortion is that it would be legal exclusively when it comes to cases of rape, incest and if the health of the mother is endangered. On Jan. 22 on the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Obama issued a statement that said he continued to be committed to a woman’s constitutionally protected right to have an abortion.
During the second of three televised presidential debates on Oct. 16, the candidates discussed Planned Parenthood, equal pay for women and abortion.
Obama stressed that Planned Parenthood provides services beyond the controversial abortions.
“There are millions of women all across the country who rely on Planned Parenthood for not just contraceptive care,” Obama said. “They rely on it for mammograms, for cervical cancer screenings. That’s a pocketbook issue for women and families all across the country.”
Romney focused on the need to create jobs, and how women have been affected by the economic decline of the past several years.
“There are three-and-a-half million more women living in poverty today than when the president took office,” Romney said during the debate. “We don’t have to live like this. We can get this economy going again.”
Ally Day, a Ph.D. candidate and instructor in the department of women’s gender, sexuality studies department at OSU, said she would like to see more discussion on women’s issues this close to the election.
“I’ve been kind of surprised, people aren’t talking about women’s health the way I thought they would,” she said of the campaigns.
However, she said she would like to see the issue less politicized.
“Everyone deserves to have people making decisions based on what’s best for them,” Day said. “Not whether someone is making a political gain.”
Communications director for the OSU College Republicans Niraj Antani said, during an interview with The Lantern, that Romney would be good for women because he cares about creating jobs.
“I think that Gov. Romney understands how to create jobs, and women need jobs too,” he said.
As part of the Affordable Care Act employers would be required to provide contraception coverage to people under their insurance plans. Antani said this is a fundamental disagreement with some personal views held by members of the OSU community.
“Obama wants colleges to have to provide contraception, but that’s against the Catholic faith,” Antani said. “I think that’s a violation of the First Amendment right.”
Lauren Zacks, women’s coordinator for the OSU College Democrats and a fourth-year in political science, said women’s issues need to be taken seriously by candidates.
“It shouldn’t be political football – it’s health,” she said. “It’s not just a social issue, it’s an economic one.”
Zacks called Romney’s policies “very backwards” and said “telling women they can’t control their bodies in this day and age” is unacceptable.
Day said she would like to see the outcome of the election provide education for women and more knowledge on what choices they are given when it comes to their health and why.
The candidate’s wives spoke at their party national conventions earlier this fall, and both Michelle Obama’s and Ann Romney’s speeches were given good reviews.
Mitt Romney leads Barack Obama with 48 percent to 47 percent in registered voters, and with 51 percent to 46 percent in likely voters according to a Wednesday seven-day Gallup poll.
Ally Marotti contributed to this article.