Selling GOP to Jewish Women

Republicans Look To Shift Debate to Economy and Israel

Women’s World: Mitt Romney is hoping to chip away at Barack Obama’s dominant support among Jewish women. The GOP hopes to shift the discussion from reproductive rights and other ‘women’s issues,’ to broader topics like the economy and Israel.
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Women’s World: Mitt Romney is hoping to chip away at Barack Obama’s dominant support among Jewish women. The GOP hopes to shift the discussion from reproductive rights and other ‘women’s issues,’ to broader topics like the economy and Israel.

By Nathan Guttman

Published August 30, 2012, issue of September 07, 2012.
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“Don’t talk to women only about contraceptives,” Carter told the Forward, ticking off a list of GOP talking points, like an economic downturn that, in many cases, has a greater impact on women than on men, energy and fuel prices, and a defense policy that affects thousands of women serving in the military. “We want to fight this false war on women,” she said.

Stereotypes, however, apparently die hard. GOP women seeking empowerment could also indulge in a beauty salon set up for their use at the YG’s women’s pavilion and in a fashion show reception thrown for Jewish Republicans during the convention’s opening day.

To this list of women priorities, Herson added the issue of Israel, which she believes is a concern for all Jewish voters, female and male. She believes that Romney’s support for Israel is stronger than that of Obama, and that this issue will resonate with Jewish women voters come November.

Still, in debates with fellow Jewish women, Herson, a lifelong activist with the Republican Jewish Coalition and a former appointee to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum committee, finds herself having to respond to arguments against Republicans’ positions on reproductive rights and birth control.

Organizers carefully crafted a similar message throughout the convention, as speakers directed their addresses to women voters, speaking to them about the economy, foreign policy and health care, not about social value issues.

Ann Romney, who has rarely spoken in public before the convention, made a personal appeal to women in her August 28 speech. The possible future first lady stressed the toll the recession has had on women. “Everything has become harder,” she said. “We’re too smart, and know that there are no easy answers, but we’re not dumb enough to accept that there are not better answers.”

Lynn Lechter, a board member of the RJC’s women’s committee, said Ann Romney “stole the show,” especially with her engaging account of balancing work, faith and family life.

Lechter, who is from suburban Philadelphia, conceded she has an uphill battle winning over moderate Jewish women. “I try to talk to Jewish women and say, ‘What about the economy, what about Israel?’ They say, ‘I don’t care, I care about abortion,’” Lechter said.

She tells them to focus on bigger issues and set aside reproductive rights for now.

With Obama, “you’ll have a women’s right to choose with no country, or God forbid, with no Israel,” she said.

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com


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