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Did The Wisconsin Recall Teach Us The Wrong Lesson About Women Voters?

Robin Marty

As pundits continue to try and discern what the Wisconsin recall might mean for November's general election, women voters may see their power ebb.

Republican Governor Scott Walker’s victory over those who tried to remove him from office last week has set political tongues wagging. Republicans see the vote as a harbinger of good things to come in the November. Democrats translate it into a sign of what happens when a weak Democrat runs against a mighty machine, complete with a tenfold spending advantage.

However, one thing some seem to think the race proved, and which can be applied in the November elections, is that the women’s vote may not be that important when it comes to determining a victor.

E.J. Dionne, writing in the Washington Post about “lessons learned” from the election, said this:

First, the gender gap can work both ways. Women voted for Democrat Tom Barrett while men voted for Walker. Indeed, Walker’s share of the vote among women was 12 points lower than his share among men. But he carried males by a landslide: 59 percent to 40 percent. Walker lost women much more narrowly, 52 percent to 47 percent. The lesson is that Republicans can survive a rather big gender gap as long as they win men overwhelmingly.

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Perhaps technically Dionne is correct, but if so, it’s a feat that is highly unlikely to be replicated on a larger scale.

Although the Wisconsin race had massive voter turnout, it was still a special election with a smaller pool of voters.  The voters were split evenly down the middle when it came to sex, 50 percent male, 50 percent female.

That’s not something that is likely to happen in November. In 2008, 66 percent of all women voted in comparison to just 62 percent of men. Historically, women voters have have out-paced men proportionally in turnout for every election since 1980, and have cast more votes than men in every election since 1964. According to the numbers provided by the Center for American Women and Politics, women have cast between four and seven million more votes than men in recent elections.

Advocacy groups definitely aren’t taking women voters for granted, and are eagerly seeking ways to engage female voters come November.

“Opponents of women’s health have brought women’s health issues front and center for the 2012 elections,” said Eric Ferrero, Vice President of Communications for Planned Parenthood Action Fund.  “The stakes couldn’t be higher and the contrast between President Obama and Mitt Romney couldn’t be starker.  That’s why Planned Parenthood Action Fund is making big investments to educate and mobilize women voters for November.”

“As they have in every presidential election since 1980, women will vote in huge numbers and make the critical difference in countless elections around the country because they know that there is no greater advocate for women’s health than President Obama – and no greater opponent than Mitt Romney.”

The Republican party is planning to be equally as aggressive, preparing to launch a women’s network in association with the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Guns” program. According to Politico, the “YG Woman Up” campaign is expected to spend several million dollars in an effort to create space with “survey research and focus group, building an online community, economic analysis and issue advocacy with the goal of understanding better what language and viewpoints appeal to women and establish itself as the hub for center-right women frustrated with the policy debate.”

Although Wisconsin may have yielded some lessons for November, ignoring women voters is most definitely not one of them. And neither party appears ready to try it out, either.

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