By Amanda Marcotte
It’s been two years since Democrats first started winning elections by accusing Republicans of waging war on women. You would think that Republicans would have figured out some way to defend themselves against that accusation, even if only on the surface. But as the midterm elections draw near, it’s become increasingly clear that not only do Republicans have no idea how to appeal to women, many of their attempts are so ham-fisted and sexist that they’re actually going to backfire.
Take for instance, this baffling ad that was run in 6 states for their gubernatorial elections. The ad, purchased by the College Republican National Committee, uses the popular TLC show Say Yes To The Dress as the inspiration. But the twist is that these wedding dresses are actually candidates. For instance, the Florida ad features the heroine, named Brittany (of course), trying to choose between a sexy dress called “Rick Scott” and a dowdy one named “Charlie Crist”. Or in Pennsylvania, she’s trying to pick between the “Tom Corbett” and the “Tom Wolf.”
The implication of these ads, which appear to be trying to win single female voters, is that young women are a bunch of flibbertigibbets who can’t be bothered with politics unless baited with wedding dresses and a bunch of excited squealing.
There’s a deep irony here, in that Republicans frequently claim that Democrats are the ones who are somehow underestimating women when Democrats do things like highlight policy differences on reproductive rights or equal pay between the parties. Attack ads aimed at Democrats, such as one run against Mark Udall in Colorado or a generic anti-Obama ad run in multiple states, try to frame Democratic support of affordable contraception as a form of condescension. “We aren’t single-issue voters,” complains the actress in one ad. “He thinks the only thing I care about is free birth control,” says the actress in another.
The ads backfire, however, because they suggest that Republicans believe that women who care about birth control are incapable of caring about any other issues. That Republicans end up condescending to women even when trying to convince women it’s the other guy who is condescending. Women can see how Republicans portray them and their votes reflect it. Polling shows that the Democratic lead amongst unmarried women, which was strong to begin with, has doubled since July and may be enough to hand the midterms to the Democrats.