A few weeks ago, just as the Republicans' "war on women" was capturing national attention, the Republican National Committee decided to argue President Obama was the one who was actually waging a "war on women." It was silly; it was impossible to take seriously; and the RNC dropped the line pretty quickly.
That is, until yesterday, when Mitt Romney and his campaign team picked this up and ran with it -- or at least tried to.
Mitt Romney, who was all-but-crowned the Republican Party's nominee on Tuesday after Rick Santorum suspended his campaign, sought to reframe the battle for female voters by accusing the Obama administration of waging "the real war on women" through its failure to jump-start the economy.
"During the Obama years, women have suffered," Romney told a crowd in this town just outside Philadelphia. "This president did not cause the recession; he just made it worse and made it longer. And it's been harder for the recovery to occur. And, as a result, women have suffered." [...]
Romney said that 92.3 percent of the jobs lost during Obama's years as president were women's jobs.
It wasn't just the candidate -- Romney surrogates also began pushing this line yesterday, suggesting this is a coordinated offensive.
There are a few interesting angles to this new tack. The first is that Romney and his team are using wildly misleading figures. Romney obviously isn't running a truth-oriented campaign, but for those who take details seriously, it's worth noting that the data the presumptive Republican nominee is using isn't accurate.
The second has to do with causality and intentions.
Is Romney saying the Obama administration is trying to force American women into unemployment on purpose? Because that would be a "war on women." In contrast, the Republican Party agenda recently has been deliberate, featuring efforts to cut off Planned Parenthood; impose state-mandated, medically-unnecessary ultrasounds; force physicians to lie to patients about abortion and breast cancer; etc.
Blaming job losses on Obama is tough, but no one can seriously argue the president tried to make unemployment worse. In contrast, the GOP agenda to attack women's health is not an accident.
And finally, the campaign's strategy is familiar, but misguided. In recent weeks, Romney has gone to almost comical lengths to identify his faults and project them onto President Obama. Romney wants to end Medicare, so accused Obama of wanting to end Medicare. Romney is trying to keep his proposals secret until after the election, so accused Obama of wanting to keep his proposals secret until after the election. Romney has two post-grad degrees from Harvard, so he accused Obama of spending too much time at Harvard. Romney is an out-of-touch elitist, so he accused Obama of being an out-of-touch elitist.
Rachel calls this Romney's "I'm rubber, you're glue" tactic.
But this new tack is especially odd since it moves the argument to Democratic turf. Dems are eager to talk about the "war on women," and Romney is inadvertently making their job easier, in part by endorsing a far-right agenda, and in part by validating the underlying rhetorical frame.
Should the 2012 race come down to which candidate is more committed to protecting women's interests? Is that really what Romney wants?