Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Can Romney win over women?

By Timothy Stanley, Special to CNN
updated 3:29 PM EDT, Wed April 4, 2012
Mitt Romney greets supporters at an election night rally Tuesday in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Mitt Romney greets supporters at an election night rally Tuesday in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Tim Stanley: Romney wins appear to make him unbeatable; GOP must accept this
  • Stanley: Romney doesn't fit the conservative hero/cowboy model
  • He says Romney must woo women voters
  • Stanley: Romney should show the empathetic side that got him elected in Massachusetts

Editor's note: Timothy Stanley is a historian at Oxford University and blogs for Britain's Daily Telegraph. He is the author of the new book "The Crusader: The Life and Times of Pat Buchanan."

(CNN) -- With his victories in Maryland, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia, Mitt Romney now looks unbeatable. He has more than half the delegates necessary to clinch the nomination. Republicans are signaling boredom with the contest, and it's becoming harder and harder to justify Rick Santorum's ongoing insurgency.

Logic would push Santorum out of the race sometime in late April, following the big Northeast primaries. Newt Gingrich, meanwhile, is running on ego and will probably keep his candidacy going until 2052. By that point, he'll be a head in a jar circling the Earth -- his voice booming out among the stars, "It is fundamentally inevitable that I'll be elected President someday..."

As the Republicans shift their attention from the primary to the general election, they need to do two things. First, they need to learn to love Mitt Romney -- and faking it won't do.

Timothy Stanley
Timothy Stanley

It will be hard. The Massachusetts moderate has struggled to appeal to conservatives and Tea Party people this season, who think his endorsement of their priorities is self-serving and insincere. More than that, conservatives tend to prefer presidential nominees who tap into the emotional narrative of the right -- war heroes like Bob Dole and John McCain, or self-made cowboys like Ronald Reagan or George W Bush. Romney's stilted, preppy style is too far from the prairie and too close to the boardroom.

But the right is going to have to rally around Romney, put aside its objections and find reasons to fall in love -- and transmit that love to the base. Marco Rubio came up with a good formula when he endorsed Mitt last week on Fox: This guy is going to be the nominee, a longer primary will damage the party, and Romney does offer a compelling alternative to Obama because he has a record of creating jobs. If Rick Santorum or Sarah Palin would only say that, too, and say it like they mean it, Romney could go to the convention with a united party.

Romney wins three to widen Santorum gap
Romney: We won victory to restore America
Pawlenty: Santorum 'lashing out'
Obama looking ahead to Romney face-off?

The second thing the GOP needs to do is let Mitt drift back to his comfort zone somewhere closer to the center-ground. A much discussed USA Today poll shows that Romney is headed for defeat because his party is unattractive to women. At the moment, Romney leads Obama among men by 48 to 47 percent; but he trails among women, 54 to 36 percent. The gender gap is wide enough to re-elect the president by a landslide of 51 to 42 percent.

A lot of pundits have leapt on the idea that the recent debates over government-funded or mandated contraception have made the GOP brand toxic to women. But the USA Today poll indicates that the issue's impact is rather more qualified than that.

Both men and women rate "government policies on birth control" as the least important question in 2012, and 63 percent of them don't even know where Romney stands on it. About the same proportion dislikes Romney's position (24 percent) as much as they do Obama's (25 percent).

The real gender gap in the USA Today poll is that men think the deficit is the most important issue while women think it's health care. In short, independent women voters are more exercised about the GOP's opposition to "Obamacare" than they are its objection to free contraception.

So it's not good enough for Romney simply to go silent on social issues. Although a greater focus on the economy will surely help him, the polls suggest that he also needs some compelling alternative policies to the president on bread and butter issues. Demanding the repeal of Obamacare might appeal to many conservatives, but it's hardly a positive agenda. And if the Supreme Court strips the individual mandate out of the bill, then it will be a dead issue by November anyway. The president will look like a man who tried to reform the health care mess and was undermined by the judicial establishment.

Politically, Romney will look a season out of step and, in the eyes of many swing voters, a little bit heartless. Of course, that's ironic considering that he was behind "Romneycare" -- the Massachusetts health care program that some insist was the model for Obamacare. Romney may end up regretting his flip-flop away from it.

Between now and November, Romney needs to explore his feminine side. If Republicans are from Mars and Democrats are from Venus, he needs to court a few of those Venusians with a subtle shift in tone and agenda -- a gender realignment, if you will. That doesn't mean we need to see an entirely new Mitt Romney. But it wouldn't hurt to see some more of the old one -- the Mitt who was "empathetic" enough to win Massachusetts in 2003.

Follow us on Twitter: @CNNOpinion

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Timothy Stanley.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
updated 12:25 PM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
updated 12:23 AM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
updated 12:11 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
updated 1:24 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
updated 9:06 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
updated 11:54 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
updated 10:34 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
updated 10:43 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat August 30, 2014
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
updated 9:30 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT