Michael Gerson's latest column notes that Mitt Romney has electoral trouble with women. He's trailing President Obama by 18 points among this group in Ohio, for instance. Gerson writes:
The media — ever drawn to simple explanations that reinforce their own cultural expectations — have diagnosed Romney’s gender-based electoral weakness as the result of his opposition to the contraceptive mandate. This is both initially plausible and demonstrably false. More than 60 percent of American voters don’t even know Romney’s position on the mandate — a topic they rank near the bottom of their political concerns. And when pressed, a majority of women affirm that religious institutions should be exempted from the mandate.
This is not particularly good news for Romney. His difficulties would not be solved by handing out the pill at his rallies or by a balloon drop of inflated condoms at the Republican convention in Tampa. The GOP’s main problem is not the contraceptive issue; it is the perception that it has become too ideological on many issues. Women and independent voters have seen a party enthusiastically confirming its most damaging stereotypes. The composite Republican candidate — reflecting the party’s ideological mean — has been harsh on immigration, confrontational on social issues, simplistic in condemning government and silent on the struggles of the poor. How many women would find this profile appealing on eHarmony?
Gerson goes on to mention some of the big government programs and so-called "compassionate" conservatism that the previous president employed to some electoral success.
And because I oppose these big government programs, I'd like to come up with some kind of alternative advice for Romney and how he might appeal to voters.
I wonder if Gerson's last sentence in the excerpt isn't more instructive than the rest. Or maybe we should focus on the words "harsh," "confrontational," "simplistic" and "silent." Maybe this has absolutely nothing to do with actual policy positions and more to do with communication style.
Or, as Gerson concludes:
A successful presidential candidate must have a compelling economic message. But he must also be able to stand before the nation and say: “I will serve all American citizens, whether they support me or not. My conscience, my faith, my view of America requires it. It hurts us all when any are hopeless.”
One of the best ways to appeal to women — and to humans, for that matter — is to show some humanity.
I hate to say it, but such language still leaves me cold. Gerson offers it as a corrective to Romney's "clumsy literalism" but it still seems very soulless to me. Or maybe I just can't imagine him selling it. When Paul Ryan talks about how the debt crisis hurts the elderly and poor the most, I buy it. That has as much to do with his history of work on the debt crisis as anything else.
Anyway, what's your advice for Romney? How should he bridge this gap with women voters?