There's ample evidence that the Republican policy campaign known as the "war on women" has taken a toll on the GOP's standing with more than half the electorate. Republican leaders, however, still seem unsure how to talk about their problem.
The leaders of the two political parties clashed over the role of gender in U.S. elections, with the Democrat saying her opponents have been "shockingly out of touch" on women's issues and the Republican saying Democrats and the media have created a phony conflict.
"If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we'd have problems with caterpillars," Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in an interview on Bloomberg Television's "Political Capital with Al Hunt" airing this weekend. "It's a fiction."
This is becoming a popular defense -- denial. War on women? What war on women? Democrats and the media just made this whole story up. It's what South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) argued this week, and it's the line Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the only woman in the Republican leadership in either chamber, adopted two weeks ago.
It's also wrong.
As we've reported on the show many times, the effort on the part of GOP policymakers at the federal and state level to undermine women's health care is as severe as anything we've seen from a major party in many years. Unlike the war on caterpillars, Republican efforts are real.
I'll spare you the full list of every bill in every state, but the policy offensive is, well, offensive. Restricting contraception; cutting off Planned Parenthood; state-mandated, medically-unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds; forcing physicians to lie to patients about abortion and breast cancer; abortion taxes; abortion waiting periods; forcing women to tell their employers why they want birth control, going after prenatal care, possible abortion permission slips ... this is no minor policy initiative.
For the chairman of the Republican National Committee to dismiss concerns as "fiction" only adds insult to injury.