Slicing and dicing populations into demographics for election season has, in recent years, become an ever more fine-tuned tool. Trying to predict voter behavior based on certain characteristics has led to absurd sub-groupings, to the extent that “overweight white underemployed college graduates” or “Latino circus-goers” would not be surprising additions to lists of electorally important voters. But some major demographic groupings have serious implications for presidential candidates and their policies. Among the most important are differences between men and women.
This week, politicos battled over the gender gap, which currently sees Republican Mitt Romney leading eight points among men in swing states, but Democratic incumbent Barack Obama leading 12 points among swing state women.
Team Obama had already hammered Romney on birth control and abortion, while Team Romney had portrayed the economy as disproportionately affecting women, deploying Mitt’s better half to shore up likability among them.
Intent on widening the gender gap, the Obama team this week honed in on women’s issues, premiering a website featuring a fictional woman named “Julia.” The campaign tried to demonstrate how Obama’s policies would help her over the years while Romney’s would set her back.
Almost immediately, the Republican National Committee asked its supporters to take to the twitterverse with the hashtag #Julia to deride the campaign. The tag was used over 31,000 times that day, according to Topsy.com, by far eclipsing the Democrats’ proposed tag of #women2012. Many of the #Julia tweets mocked the website as an example of pervasive government, and accused it of being misogynistic for suggesting women need government help.
Tweets of the Week:
Others inadvertently reaffirmed notions that repelled women from the GOP in the first place.
They suffered further setbacks when gag website Funny or Die, which has in previous election cycles thrived on political satire, garnered a video hit with a parody starring actress Kate Beckinsale, tactfully entitled “Republicans, Get In My Vagina!”
Reinforcing the “anti-woman” attacks on the GOP, the video garnered 350,000 views in three days.
Viral Video of the Week:
Obama’s relationship with women -- or more accurately, his past relationships with women -- was also a hot topic of conversation this week. Vanity Fair excerpted an upcoming book about the president by David Maraniss entitled Becoming Obama, which includes details of his liaisons before Michelle.
The excerpts include the future president wooing women with poetry and love letters. In one, he says that T.S. Eliot “accedes to maintaining a separation of asexual purity and brutal sexual reality," in his seminal poem “The Wasteland.” The book also includes journal entries from former girlfriend Genevieve Cook, a women Obama says he had loved.
Cook describes Obama’s room as “a mixture of smells that so strongly speak of his presence, his liveliness, his habits — running sweat, Brut spray deodorant, smoking, eating raisins, sleeping, breathing." She also says that Obama had “sexual warmth,” but added, “His warmth can be deceptive. Tho he speaks sweet words and can be open and trusting, there is also that coolness.” Critiques of Obama as a smooth talker whose words do not match his actions, it seems, have deep roots.
The media chatter was not lost on Obama. As the president kicked off the first rallies of his campaign this week, he had his wife Michelle planted squarely at his side.
#USelections2012 offers weekly insight into the US Presidential election through a social media lens, tracking candidates as they try to reach 270 electoral votes in 140 characters or less.
The writer is a Breaking News editor and blogger at The Jerusalem Post. Read his blog ‘The Bottom Line’ here.