Republicans picked up seven Senate seats in the midterm election. (Note: This includes Alaska, which was called for Republican candidate Dan Sullivan earlier this morning.) According to CNN exit polling data, the male vote was key in every one of them. The female vote was also interesting.
For years, the Democrats go-to strategy has been to accuse Republicans of conducting a war on women and so appeal to its formidable female voting base. The accusation may no longer be a winner. Men are emerging as the new power base that Democrats ignore at great peril. This is especially true if women split their votes between both parties.
What does the polling data reveal about the seven Republican Senate candidates and the strategy of anti-woman accusations?
Shelley Moore Capito (West Virginia). The pro-Democratic and feminist Emilys List issued a memo accusing Moore of turning her back on West Virginia women time and again. It hit repeatedly on her opposition to ending gender discrimination in pay. The exit data showed men favoring Capito by 37 points; women by 19.
Mike Rounds (South Dakota). The pro-Democratic RH Reality Check decried him as being stringently anti-choice and responsible in 2006 for signing into law one of the most sweeping anti-choice laws in America. Men favored Rounds by 30 points; women by 12.
Tom Cotton (Arkansas). Liberals emphasized that Cotton voted against the Violence Against Women Act. They reached back to his college days to critique an article he wrote for The Harvard Crimson which criticized feminist organizations. Men favored Cotton by 24 points; women by 10.
Joni Ernst (Iowa). The progressive PoliticusUSA called her a lying Koch-funded teabagger, and an anti-womans rights evangelical. It cited her support for a personhood amendment which would have granted constitutional rights to a fetus. Men favored Ernst by 18 points; women were evenly divided.
Cory Gardner (Colorado). His opponent, Sen. Mark Udall (D), ran a one-issue campaign: reproductive rights. Udalls first ad declared, It comes down to respect. For women, and our lives. So Congressman Cory Gardners history promoting harsh anti-abortion laws is disturbing, criticizing Gardner for championing an eight year crusade to outlaw birth control. Men favored Gardner by 17 points; women favored Udall by 8.
Thom Tillis (North Carolina). The feminist organization Women Are Watching excoriated Tillis as anti-abortion, anti-birth control and against tax funding of Planned Parenthood. It concluded that Women in North Carolina deserve better. Men favored Tillis by 15 points; women favored his opponent by 12.
Dan Sullivan (Alaska). Planned Parenthood launched a campaign of ads against Sullivan, which blasted his opposition to abortion and ObamaCares contraception mandate. The ads even mentioned his opposition to the tax funding of Planned Parenthood. Men favored Sullivan by 11 points; women favored his opponent by 2.
Due to Louisianas electoral policies, the Senate race there may not be decided until December. Nevertheless, the Nov. 4 results are significant. Democratic candidate and incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu is prominent on the state and federal level. Her family has deep political roots in Louisiana and she chairs the powerful Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Nevertheless, Landrieu could not reach the required 50 percent vote. She received 42.1 percent, while her three Republican rivals cumulatively received 55 percent.
She is unlikely to prevail in the runoff. Indeed, the Associated Press (Nov. 6) reported that the Senate Democrats campaign committee ... began canceling plans for television ads in Louisianas major markets to help Sen. Mary Landrieus runoff campaign against Republican Bill Cassidy. During the race, Democrats decried Cassidy as anti-abortion.
The Senate elections offer several gender lessons, including:
- Republicans are fielding formidable female candidates who counter the argument that the GOP is anti-woman;
- The woman vote is being split; and
- Men have emerged as a new power base that Democrats ignore at great risk.
On election night, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer declared, this is the end of the war on women, and the Democrats have lost it. He pointed to political dynasties that crumbled, which included Mark Udall, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Democratic Senatorial candidate Michelle Nunn (Ga.) and (arguably) Mary Landrieu. Krauthammer suggested they fell because they pushed the war on women strategy too far.
If true, the development has profound implications for Hillary Clinton, who is expected to make a 2016 presidential run. Clintons main perceived advantage is an ability to mobilize women voters through her signature approach of legislating feminism. If this drives men further toward the GOP, however, it may be her main disadvantage.
This piece has been updated.