Yesterday, Mitt Romney and his campaign were eager, almost desperate, to work on narrowing the gender gap. The strategy was simple: argue that President Obama, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, is really the one waging a "war on women."
Their efforts failed rather spectacularly, thanks in large part to the clumsy unpreparedness of Romney's own aides. The day offered a reminder of an often-overlooked detail: the presumptive Republican nominee is accustomed to facing weak, bumbling competitors, and Team Romney is going to have to learn quickly the differences between the minor leagues and the Big Show.
But before moving on, it's worth pausing to take a closer look at the Romney campaign's underlying argument: 92.3% of the jobs lost in the Obama era have belonged to women. The claim was debunked yesterday over and over and over and over again yesterday, but my personal favorite was Kevin Drum's takedown, because he included a chart that helped drive the point home.
In case the image isn't self-explanatory, Team Romney took a look at all the job losses and gains in the American economy, starting on Jan. 1, 2009 (three weeks before President Obama was inaugurated). The Republican campaign then got creative: because male workers saw a more sudden increase in job losses at the beginning of that calendar year, Romney carefully chose the starting date for his analysis that exaggerates the results.
If he'd started on Feb. 1, 2009, to reflect Obama's first full month in office, the number for women would have been 300%, instead of 92%. The Romney campaign knows no one would believe such an absurd figure, so they manipulated the figures accordingly.
The scope of its creativity and dishonesty is almost impressive, in a shameful sort of way.
As Kevin explained, "There was a steep job loss among men right at the beginning of the recession and a slower job loss among women. So what happens if you just lop off that bit of the recession and count only the strength of the recovery since January 1, 2009? Well, men have recovered steeply and women have recovered more slowly.... Men have made up ground faster then women since January 2009, so technically that means that women have sustained the bulk of the job losses since then."
Romney's talking point is the kind of argument Americans would expect from a candidate who simply doesn't respect voters enough to be straight with them. The "92%" argument is a con masquerading as political rhetoric. That this is what Romney has been reduced to in April -- on the first day of the general-election phase of the race -- does not bode well for the kind of honesty we can expect from the GOP campaign in the fall.
There's a larger point to keep in mind -- when should the clock start when it comes to evaluating the economy under Obama? -- and I'll have more on that a little later this morning.