America’s Collision Course With The Debt Ceiling
As the nation counts down to default, Diane talks to longtime Congress watcher Norm Ornstein about the debt limit negotiations, what's at stake and whether he sees a way forward.
Guest Host: Susan Page
Men and women have different views of this year’s presidential election. Most polls show Republican Mitt Romney holds a small lead among male voters, while President Barack Obama has a big lead among female ones. In the final six weeks of the campaign, women have become a key target for both sides. More women are registered, more turn out to vote and they are more likely to be undecided or “persuadable.” Democratic pollster Margie Omero and Republican pollster Christine Matthews describe what sorts of women could decide the November election. Bay Buchanan, a representative of the Romney campaign, and Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager for Obama’s reelection, tell us how the candidates are trying to appeal to them.
MS. SUSAN PAGEThanks for joining us. I'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. She's on vacation. With only 43 days until the presidential election, both the Obama and Romney campaigns are focusing on a group that may well decide the outcome: women. The gender gap is the widest it's been in perhaps a generation, and women are more likely to be among those sought after swing voters still open to persuasion. Joining me in the studio are Democratic pollster Margie Omero and Republican pollster Christine Matthews. Welcome.
MS. MARGIE OMEROThanks for having me back.
MS. CHRISTINE MATTHEWSThank you.
PAGELater in the hour, we'll be joined by phone by Bay Buchanan, a representative of the Romney campaign, and Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager for President Obama. And throughout the hour, you can send us your thoughts and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us at our toll-free number, 1-800-433-8850, or find us on Facebook or Twitter. So, Margie, the gender gap, how big is it at this -- in this election at this time?
OMEROIt's in double digits which it's -- depending on what averages you're looking at and what recent poll, it can be as much as 13, 15 points right now. Some polls show it a 10. It is increasing. It's increased a lot over the last few weeks since you've had Romney stumbling. The gender gap has really widened. You could argue -- at least the polls show -- that a lot of the movement recently in Obama's numbers really have come from women voters.
PAGEChristine, do you agree with that? Do you think the movement recently that has given President Obama a little bit more of an advantage than we saw earlier in this campaign is because women are moving toward him?
MATTHEWSI think certain subgroups. I looked at today's battleground poll that just was released, and Obama leads by nine. So that's single digits. And when you look at the subgroups of women...
PAGENow, Obama leads among women by nine. Is that what you're saying?
PAGEAnd does Romney lead among men?
MATTHEWSHe does, by six.
PAGESo that means the gender gap would be 15, right, the disparity between how men and women vote.
MATTHEWSWell, depends on how you look at it, sure. Yeah. So that is double digits. But Obama is up by nine among women. And -- but if you look at some of the subgroups, Romney is winning among white women. He is winning among married women. And I think one of the things you've seen since the Democratic convention is some consolidation among single women, part of the Democratic base. They are supporting Obama by about 40 points, and that's pretty significant. So I think that's where you're seeing some of the movement.
PAGEYou know, it is true that the disparity between married women and unmarried women is quite wide. Margie, why is that?
OMEROWell, I think there are a variety of things that lead to that. One is age goes into it, right? So you're going to have the younger women are going to be part of the unmarried women. Your -- that group is also going to be sometimes disproportionately minority, and Obama, in particular, has a huge advantage among Latinos and a bigger advantage among Latino women over Latino men, something that's wider than the gender gap he had in 2008 or that Democrats had in 2010 among Latinos. So I think that adds up to it.
OMEROAnd then also, you have a lot of those younger unmarried women there -- are going to be working, and working women give Obama a clear advantage. So I think it's a lot of the demographic variables that co-vary with being married or unmarried that lead to that gap rather than something specific about being unmarried that makes you Democratic leaning.
PAGEBut, you know, whatever kind of -- however we kind of slice the world of women voters, it seems -- in almost every case, women are more likely to support President Obama than men in that category are, whether you look at Latinos or look at married people. Is that right, Christine? And if so, why do men and women seem to see these two candidates in the selection in different ways?
MATTHEWSYou know, every election cycle, we talk about the gender gap. But, you know, this is not new at all. And, in fact, it's almost structural. Women and men have different perspectives on the role of government. Women are about 10 points more likely to identify as Democrats. And so, you know, there are some differences in what they think is the role of government. And men -- again, you could be having this conversation which would be, why are men less favorable towards Obama in this election?
MATTHEWSWell, this has been through many, many cycles. In fact, I don't think a Republican has won the women votes since 1988. So this happens every four years. There are differences between men and women.
PAGEBut what is the fundamental -- so if Republicans have a lot of trouble winning women voters, majority of women voters, why is that?
MATTHEWSWell, again, you could look at it, why do Democrats have trouble winning men?
PAGERight. I'm going to ask Margie that next.
PAGESo I'm going to ask you why Republicans have trouble reaching women voters.
MATTHEWSWell, again, I think if you look at some subgroups, the ones we win, we win by a small enough margin. The ones we lose, we lose big, which is to say Hispanic women, which is to say single women. So we have very big deficits among certain groups of women. I think it really does come down to the proper role for government. And I think in many cases, women are more likely to say, government should play more activist role.
MATTHEWSAnd in this election, in many elections, Mitt Romney has said, you know, I'm the candidate for less government. If you want the candidate for more government, that's Barack Obama.
PAGEAnd a lot of women would say, yes, I want the candidate who's going to offer more of safety net, more of a government. So, Margie, let me ask you the reverse of that question, why do Democrats have trouble appealing to men and especially if you take out African-American men appealing to white men?
OMEROWell, I guess I would say -- I would phrase it differently than it's a difference between the role -- how people view the role of government. It's really about, do you understand the challenges that I face, and are you really fighting for my family? Do you understand my unique family situation? And I think that's where you see Democrats really better able to speak to women and men a little bit less concerned with that focus and more concerned about maybe a more exterior focus, thinking more about the country as a whole.
OMEROMy firm has, you know, has done this bipartisan work on Wal-Mart moms over the last few years. In a survey we did last year in 2011, Wal-Mart moms were evenly divided on whether they were concerned more about the economy nationally or their own personal household finances. They were 2-to-1. Two to one are more concerned about household versus the economy. Voters overall: equal. They were equally concerned about their own household versus the economy nationally.
OMEROSo I think that perspective of who is fighting for me and understands what's going on in my household, that's where you see a huge difference in the party, and that's why I think women give Democrats the advantage and why men perhaps sometimes can vote more Republican.
PAGESo one thing other pollsters have told me is that when you look at voters who are either undecided, which is a pretty small group at this point, or say, it's still possible they would change their mind about who to support, they're more likely to be women than men. Is that what you've seen, Christine?
MATTHEWSYeah, it is a very small percentage in terms of really absolutely undecided, maybe 5 percent, the people who are sort of leaning, yeah. And that tends to be true. A lot of women, very busy, not that interested in politics and -- will tune in and certainly will vote. Although the one thing, I think, if I'm a Democratic, I'm going to be concerned about is, you know, the strong advantage that you have among single women. They are significantly less likely to turn out to vote than married women. They're less likely to register.
MATTHEWSThey're less likely to actually turn out to vote. Big difference in 2010, some difference in 2008, so the question is, will this lead that the Democrats have among single women, will that translate into these women coming to actually vote?
PAGEAnd, you know, Margie, you said earlier in the hour that President Obama, who seems to be gaining a little bit of an advantage in the swing states and in some of the nationwide polls is because women are moving his direction. Because they're moving at this point with just six weeks to go, does that mean they're susceptible to moving away from him, either to supporting Gov. Romney or they're just not voting?
OMEROYeah, I certainly think, and I think, you know, folks on all sides would agree that the polls are going to bounce around between now and Election Day. You know, I don't expect -- although as a Democrat, I guess, you know, it's possible, right, that Mitt Romney is going to have more -- every week is going to be like his this past week. And certainly, I think the Romney campaign would hope that that's not the case. If that's the case, you would see the polls, I think, widening further. So I think it's going to bounce around a little bit. And I do think women want to see what's going to happen in the debates.
OMEROWe certainly have seen and heard them in focus groups, and I think, as far as swing voters are concerned, there's a lot more debate. The debate is just beginning to start. The campaign is just starting for swing voters. For the rest of us here in Washington, who, you know, live and breathe this, it's been going on for a really long time. But -- so I think it's certainly possible that the votes will -- that the polls will bounce around as people start tuning in and watching more advertising.
PAGEWell, what about Christine's point that it may be hard to get single women who have so disproportionately support President Obama over Gov. Romney, that it's hard to get them to the polls?
OMEROThere's that -- you know, I think, at times, there's been concern that single women don't vote and a lot of worry about whether or not they are -- they're voting in the same amount as married women. Actually, the gap in turnout among unmarried men and married men is larger than the gap and turnout between unmarried women and married women. So there is a lot of focus on unmarried women because they are so reliably progressive that we want to make sure that they turn out. But, actually, unmarried men vote at lower rates than unmarried women.
PAGEYou know, if you had any doubt about what voters the campaigns are going after, you just had to look at the two conventions where we saw women governors, women senators, the wives of the candidates really featured on the convention stage and a lot of messages, I think, designed to try to reach women voters. So, Christine, what does Gov. Romney need to do now to do better among some of these women who are not supporting him and to kind of solidify his standing with some of the women groups that are more favorably disposed to Republicans?
MATTHEWSYou know, I think the Romney campaign started out with the strategy, we are not Obama, and they have run with that. But now I think it's really time -- and people are asking, well, I need to know more than you are not just Obama. So I think the debate on, I believe it's Oct. 3, will have -- be the opportunity that Mitt Romney will be able to show women, this is what I'm for. This is how I'm going to make your life better. This is how I'm going to make your economic future more secure. And that is really what he's got to do, I think.
PAGEAnd, Margie, the question for President Obama, what is it he is doing pretty well among women? What does he need to do to really solidify that?
OMEROI think a couple of things. I think one is to focus on the real difference and the vision between the two candidates on helping women, helping families, and that includes a wide variety of issues. It's education. It's college affordability. It's jobs. And just like it is for men, obviously, it's also helping women who take care of elderly parents and worried about schools and a lot of those issues.
OMEROIt also means to showing no clear contrast between the two parties on some of the more -- on issues that really affect the base, which -- the birth control issue and abortion. And the real difference is between the two of the candidates on those.
PAGEWe're going to take a very short break. And when we come back, we're going to go to the phones and take some of your calls, 1-800-433-8850. Or send us an email at email@example.com. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page with USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. And with me in the studio: Christine Matthews, she's a Republican pollster and president of Bellwether Research, and Margie Omero, she's a Democratic pollster and president and founder of Momentum Analysis, a Democratic public opinion research firm. Let's go to the phones and invite some of our listeners to join our conversation. Sabina (sp?) is calling us from Bismarck, N.D. Sabina, I believe this is the first caller I've ever taken from North Dakota. Welcome to "The Diane Rehm Show."
SABINAOh, well, thank you very much. I'm delighted to be the first from North Dakota.
PAGESo do you have a question or a comment?
SABINAI have a comment. I am decidedly -- well, I'm from a decidedly red state. However, I am not red. I'm a married mother of four, work full-time, and I can tell you exactly why women are going out for Romney. And it boils down to not only the economics, but the social issues. I mean, restricting access to the health care, restricting access to birth control, restricting access to abortion is just not the way to win women's hearts and minds.
SABINAI mean, there's more to life than just taxes, and cutting all sorts of government funding and all sorts of government support is not the way to help women nor their families.
PAGEAll right. Sabina, thank you so much for your call. Christine, how important are some of these issues that we sometimes call social issues, like abortion or access to contraception? Are they important issues in a year when most of the conversation has been about the economy?
MATTHEWSI think both men and women, the number one issue that they will say is most important to them is the economy. And when you look at the opinions of men and women, Pew just came out in August with a really interesting report on the complicated politics of abortion. Men and women actually have very similar views on the issue of abortion. And so I really do believe that a lot of the focus this election cycle is on the economy, is on jobs, and that is certainly where, I think, the Romney campaign is focusing.
PAGEAlthough I've got to say in a lot of the ads for President Obama, some by his campaign and some by organizations supporting him, I've heard a -- I've seen a lot of ads airing in battleground Virginia that talk about contraception choice, women's health issues. Margie, in a year in which the economy is preeminent, do those social have much sway?
OMEROI agree with Christine. Absolutely, the economy is the number one issue for men and for women. However, Ryan and Romney and a variety of Republicans running for Senate and governor and Congress around the country have such extreme views on things like abortion, birth control, access to birth control, which is really very different from abortion that it's not controversial, and things like mandatory maternity care coverage, breast cancer coverage.
OMEROThey are so far to the extreme on those that they are making themselves -- they're disqualifying themselves for a lot of women who ultimately want to vote based on the economy, which candidate they prefer on the economy. But when Republicans have moved so far to the right, it puts a lot of maybe de-leaning independent women really making them more solid Democratic voters.
PAGEDo you agree with that, Christine?
MATTHEWSActually, I mean, I believe Gov. Romney has said that the abortion issues has been decided. I don't -- that is not his focus. You know, I live in probably the swingiest of swing areas. I live in Northern Virginia suburbs in Virginia. So Virginia is a huge battleground state, and I have gotten several mailings from the Obama campaign on the abortion issue. And I actually find it very cynical.
MATTHEWSI find it kind of throwback-ish, you know, that here are people without jobs that the economy, you know, I haven't heard from President Obama what his plan is on the economy, yet I'm getting these mailings, these tactical mailings on the abortion issue. And I find it cynical.
PAGEI've got to say tactical mailings is kind of what campaigns do. Margie, what do you think?
OMEROWell, I mean, you know, I hear a lot of reporters talk about this because they -- they're like, why live in Northern Virginia? I see these television ads. And Northern Virginia, I mean, is a battleground state, but Northern Virginia is not the battleground part of Virginia. I mean, it is a Democratic-leaning part of all the various battleground states, and it makes sense to me that, you know, Stephanie Cutter can speak for the Obama campaign.
OMEROBut it makes sense to me that there is a focus on some of these issues in Northern Virginia for Northern Virginia women maybe different from what folks are getting in, you know, suburban rally.
PAGEYou know, it is true that women, of course, are no monolith anymore than men are, and the women voters who tend to be the targets right now, Christine, tell me who they are. I mean, my impression is that they're white women, probably non-college educated, been hit hard by the recession and not so sold on either party. Would you agree with that?
MATTHEWSYeah, I think that's right. The Romney campaign is going to be looking at married women. I think one area -- non-college women, they -- actually I think President Obama's support among non-college white women is actually in the 30s. He is not doing well with that group. In fact, he's doing worse with that group than he is with non-college white men. So that is certainly an issue. One area where President Obama continues to have a lot of strength is in white -- among white college-educated women.
MATTHEWSHe got 52 percent of the vote in 2008. I think he's tracking at about 50 percent. That's a group, I think, that the Romney campaign needs to take a look at. And I think this particular group, white college-educated women, don't dislike Obama. So it's not like I'm not going to vote for Obama because I just hate him. Rather, I think you need to have a conversation with them, why you will make their lives better, and I think Romney can do that, and I think the debates can help him with that.
PAGEYou know, that's interesting that group of white college-educated women, a lot of them live in the suburbs, the suburbs of Philadelphia, the suburbs of Washington, D.C. They've been big Democratic supporters in recent elections. Is that -- could that be at risk, Margie?
OMEROI think those groups are going to continue to be -- to vote Democratic. You're also going to see the group of working college-educated or some college-educated women continue to grow. Women now make up a majority of the workforce. That's a fairly recent development. You see a lot of women who are head of households. They are starting businesses, and you don't need to be upscale college or post-grad woman in wealthy suburbs to be in that group.
OMEROYou can be a woman anywhere in the country, and you're, you know, likely to be thinking about starting a business, running your household, being a breadwinner, in addition to making all of your household purchasing decisions and all the household decisions even if you are married. And so there's a lot of responsibilities that women have, so it's no surprise that they look to the candidates to see which candidate is really speaking to these concerns.
OMEROWhen you have Mitt Romney say, as he said, or as we learned last week, that half of the electorate thinks they're entitled to food, that really puts a lot of women -- it makes -- it's such a head-scratcher 'cause that's what women, whether they're upscale or college-educated or have kids or whatever, they're all making -- everyone makes decisions about food obviously. But for women with families, I mean, that's so much of what -- that they're working on or thinking about and strategizing about.
OMEROAnd so when Mitt Romney says, how can you -- can you imagine this half of the electorate that thinks they're entitled to food, it really just shows how disassociated he is with what women are going through.
PAGEYou know, Christine, it's been precisely a week since that video came out from a fundraiser held in May, where he made these comments about the 47 percent. Does that especially hurt him among women?
MATTHEWSWell, you know, again the battleground poll that came out today, GW Battleground Poll, I think they found that Mitt Romney is actually doing fine, doing well with people who describe themselves as middle class. You know, I think Margie exaggerates. I don't believe that Mitt Romney said people are not entitled to food or think they're entitled to food. That is kind of an exaggeration. But I don't think that that is disproportionately going to hurt him with women.
PAGEWe're joined now by Bay Buchanan on the phone. She's a veteran Republican strategist and a representative and adviser to the Romney campaign. Bay Buchanan, welcome to "The Diane Rehm Show."
MS. BAY BUCHANANThank you very much. It's my pleasure to be with you all.
PAGEYou know, we're talking about the fact that Mitt Romney has a small lead among male voters in most polls but a deficit among female voters. Why do you think that is?
BUCHANANWell, first of all, it's historical that women tend to vote Democrat. They have a bit of an edge over there. More of their base is represented by women and that men tend to vote Republican. And the big game plan in a general election is that you try to get your male vote up even higher and you try to pick off some of those women and make the gap much smaller. And I think Mitt Romney's appeal to women is a very strong one.
BUCHANANThey are the ones that are suffering something awfully in the last four years as more and more of them have fallen into poverty and become unemployed. We have the highest unemployment among women than we have in nearly 20 years, so -- and they're the ones that are trying to make ends meet, and they understand that the debt is something that should be of great concern, this massive debt out there that our children are going to inherit.
BUCHANANSo they know the times are very, very tough and that Barack Obama has failed to be able to turn things around for them as well meaning as he may have been and that we need somebody new, somebody who does have this expertise and knowledge and can put America back to work. That is what Americans need. Look at small business owners, Diane. Small business owners, there's -- are -- the majority of them are women. There's nearly 8 million small -- women-owned small businesses out across the country. And we are -- they're being crushed by excess taxes and regulation, so...
PAGEWell, Bay, I understand it's an historic deficit for Republicans, not every year, but in many of these presidential years. But I wonder, why is that? What is it about Republicans that makes it harder for the GOP to appeal to women voters?
BUCHANANWell, it goes back to the fact that when you are -- do become -- and many women, as they've become single or become single parents -- and much of the poverty is very represented by women. So as you become more and more dependent on government -- it's something that Mitt Romney spoke about that's been misinterpreted, but spoken about -- is that you -- when you hear a message from a Republican which says we got to -- we have to cut the size of government, we have to cut this outrageous spending, they fear that, listen, I'm barely making it now.
BUCHANANI wonder if what I'm getting is going to be cut because I can hardly take care of my kids as it is. And so it's a message that, you know, that basically, you know, women need that sense of security. They need to know that, even though things are tough, I'm making it. I can't have things shaken up at this stage. And so they are less likely to say, let's just give someone else a try, whereas I think men tend to say, look, I know I can do it on my own.
BUCHANANJust get the government out of my life, and this is the message of Mitt Romney. This is the message of Republicans: smaller government. So I think that's where the traditional -- the basis of this goes, is men are risk takers, if you like, and women tend towards a more secure and guaranteed type of income that they're comfortable with.
PAGEAnd, Bay, you've worked in a couple of presidential campaigns. Tell us, what do you think Mitt Romney needs to do in the next six weeks to do better among women voters than he's doing today?
BUCHANANThat was to me, Diane, (sic) correct?
PAGEThat's right, Bay, yes.
BUCHANANYeah. OK. I'll tell you, the message has to be that -- to give them the confidence, to give these women out there who know how tough it is better than anyone the confidence that he can do it and maybe have more details they can catch on to and say, my golly, he's right. If we can help these small business owners -- you know, so many of them are women, we know that others will be able to join their rank because it's such a great way for women to be able to add income to their families or to take care of themselves and their families on their own.
BUCHANANI think he has to send out a message on -- his energy message, I think, is a terrific one that has to be clarified, that he's -- we're going to be energy-independent in eight years if you elect me. And what's that going to do? It's going to bring down our gas prices, it's going to bring down our heating bills, and it's going to create jobs across the country. That's something that they can understand that indeed will happen when he talks about schools, that we need to have better schools for our children.
BUCHANANNo one knows this better than mothers across the country and that the only way to do it is to start introducing choice and competition so that we can make certain these schools for our kids get them on the path, that when they graduate from college, Mitt Romney will have an environment out there, a private sector that's vibrant so our kids can work again. I think that's what the message has to be to those women.
BUCHANANThe greatest concern they have, Diane, on their minds every -- it's no different than men -- is jobs, the economy and how are we going to take care of our families. And they don't want to be having -- taking food stamps. Sure, they don't want it, but they're having to. This economy today is forcing them. And surely they should take them in order to make certain they eat, but they don't want that direction. They want the other direction.
PAGEBay Buchanan, thank you so much for joining us on "The Diane Rehm Show."
PAGEBay Buchanan, she's an adviser to the Romney campaign. I'm Susan Page, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're going to go back to the phones, 1-800-433-8850. Let's go to Indianapolis and talk to Pierre. Pierre, hi, you're on the air.
PIERREGood morning, ladies, and thanks for taking my call. You know, the president is really doing himself a great disservice by not talking about what he's done here in Indiana. You know, the Recovery Act here helped save a lot of automotive jobs in Kokomo. And the RV industry in Elkhart, Ind. is coming back up there in Northern Indiana. There's a lot of people not taking food stamps today because the president was able to help the auto industry save those jobs.
PIERREAnd even the governor helped balance our budget here in Indiana off of those funds. The president's done a great job, but he's not talking about it, and he's not reaching out to men and explaining why they should keep him because, quite frankly, Mitt Romney, if he was in office -- and we got a Senate candidate, Richard Mourdock, who's running, who fought against the Chrysler bailout, even sued or whatever.
PIERREThose -- if they were to have their way, those -- a lot of men in Indiana would have been out of work. So, you know, I don't understand this why men don't want to go with the president. Is it bravado? Is it, quite frankly, is it racism? I mean, what is it? Because the president has helped a lot -- keep a lot of people working here in the state of Indiana.
PAGEPierre, great. Thanks so much for your call. Christine.
MATTHEWSPierre, I guess I would just say to you, guess what, I grew up in Kokomo, have lived out here for a while, but I would see the situation in Indiana a little bit differently. I think that the good business climate in your state has a lot more to do with your good, strong Republican governor who's created a good, strong business climate, lowered regulations. So that's how I would sort of see the situation in Indiana, Pierre, but I know what you're talking about 'cause I'm from Kokomo.
PAGEOne of the things that Bay Buchanan said was that women are less risk takers with their vote than men, that men are more willing to vote for a challenger rather than an incumbent that's in -- who's in office. What do you think of that, Margie?
OMEROI don't see that, and I don't see that that's what is being borne out by the data here. I mean, you have a Republican Party that is not doing a good job speaking to women, is not talking about the issues, frankly, that Bay brought up. Many of the issues she brought up I don't hear anything from Romney and Ryan or a lot of Republicans. So I see Romney and Ryan really using a very blunt instrument to try to reach women voters.
OMEROThey had the recent ad. Welcome, daughter. Your share of the debt is, you know, such and such. And, you know, they pin on Obama the entire, you know, the entire debt, including all the deficit spending that happened under the Bush administration, which was, you know, just, you know, debunked by fact checkers. And they -- you know, and obviously there's a lot of advertising that uses new mom and new mom anxiety to sell whatever, detergents, cars and so on. Certainly, I've been prey to those ads myself as a new mom.
OMEROBut, you know, one thing -- the fact that the Romney campaign thinks that new moms are really thinking about their child's share of the debt as opposed to food, which I know I mentioned about or mentioned already, or schools or safe streets or jobs or child care shows how out of touch they are with what women are thinking about.
MATTHEWSI see it a little bit differently. Margie talks about the Romney-Ryan campaign using a blunt instrument. I think of the Obama campaign kind of like Bic pen. I don't know if you've seen Bic For Her, where they've come out with this pink pen, slightly thinner. I don't think the Romney campaign thinks that's necessary. I don't think most women think that's necessary. We write with black pens. It's the economy.
PAGEWe're going to take another short break. And when we come back, we'll be joined shortly by Stephanie Cutter, the deputy campaign manager for President Obama. And we'll continue taking your calls and reading your comments. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. And we're joined now by phone by Stephanie Cutter, the deputy campaign manager for President Obama. Stephanie, thanks for joining us.
MS. STEPHANIE CUTTERGood morning. Thanks for having me.
PAGENow, let me ask you the reverse of the question I asked Bay Buchanan who was here on the air representing the Romney campaign a few minutes ago, which is we know that President Obama has a big lead in most polls among women voters but a small deficit in many of those polls among male voters. So why is President Obama not doing better among men?
CUTTERWell, Susan, we actually think we're doing quite well among men. Compared to we were four years ago, we're either at or above where we were four years ago. And, you know, neither set of voters, women versus men, are monolithic voters. It depends on, you know, who that person is, where they live, what their personal circumstances are. So we really approach it from a whole. You know, our message, I think, appeals to everybody, not just men versus women, the choice that we're laying out this election in terms of what type of economy we want to build.
PAGEBut historically we know that women are more likely to support Democrats and that's certain been the case in this election with President Obama. Why is there the disparity between genders?
CUTTERWell, I think that, you know, I can tell you why I think women are attracted to President Obama. You know, he has a strong record on education, for instance, which is one of the top motivating issues for women across this country in terms of insuring kids have good public schools to go to that are backed up by accountability to ensure measured learning.
CUTTERHealth care is another issue. Women are more often than not health care deciders in their families. So the ability to go to a doctor, have accessibility and affordability to take your child to a doctor really means something to them. And they're -- those are two things that I think attracts female voters to President Obama. I think, even more broadly on -- broadly -- broad economic issues, you know, not just how we're going to move our economy forward, create good jobs to the future but how are we going to pay down our deficit.
CUTTERYou know, women do care about the deficit. It's not just men. But women care about paying it down in a balanced way and a way that gets rid of the waste but also allows us in the way to invest in the things that we need to grow like education. So it's the compilation of that message, I think, that is more attractive to women right now than this to men.
PAGEWe've seen some pollsters say that the pool of voters who are either undecided or only loosely committed to a candidate is disproportionately women. Is that what you find with the Obama campaign? Is that your analysis? And if so, how will you try to reach that group of voters in the next six weeks?
CUTTERWell, we're really talking about a very, very small group of voters at this point. Most people have either begun to make their decision or has made their decision. You know, we all continue doing what we have been doing trying to get the president's message out on the ground, you know, whether it's in the suburban areas of Northern Virginia or Denver or Ohio, to talk about what the president wants to do in the future.
CUTTERThat's the other thing that you find most often with women. They're not really concerned about what's happened over the last four years. They really want to know what's going to happen in the next four years, and that's why the president's convention speech was so powerful. So we've been taking that speech and really traveling across the country and delivering it. The president was just in Virginia this past week.
CUTTERWe'll be back in Virginia very soon. You heard him lay out that choice in terms of future versus back in Milwaukee. So we're trying to get to as low to the ground as possible to talk to women. You know, we also have this army of volunteers that are more than -- I think that stat is 63 percent of our volunteers are women. And we created this organization called Women for Obama that is now more than 300,000 strong.
CUTTERAnd these are women that go out there and work for the election. You're not just joining a group. You're joining a group to go do something. So door to door, conversation to conversation, neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend, these conversations have been happening, and they're happening now at a much faster pace since we're nearing the finish line. But that has proved to be a very powerful tool for us in terms of reaching women where they work, where they live, how they live their life.
PAGEMargie Omero, the Democratic pollster, has been on the show with us this hour, and she says that this slightly stronger situation that President Obama has found himself in in the past couple of weeks is in part because single women are really moving in his direction. Do you think that's right?
CUTTERI think that we see a part of that, yes.
PAGEAnd are the -- if they come to you now six weeks out, does it mean they're more susceptible to moving away from you in the next six weeks or perhaps not voting? I mean, how solidly can you count on them sticking with you?
CUTTERI mean, I think that's true across the board that there is a small group of the electorate that are now taking a look at the election and trying to make their decision. And some of them lean Obama, some of them lean Mitt Romney. You know, the question you have to ask yourself is, if at this point in the race they're leaning Mitt Romney, are we ever going to be able to get them? You know, probably not but, you know, we'll still try.
CUTTERFor those leaning Obama, it's just, you know, making sure that there's a constant conversation with them about the importance of this election and where the president wants to take the country. But, you know, you know how elections go. We can keep pushing all the way up to Election Day, but it's ultimately that person's decision and that person's decision to go to the poll.
PAGEYeah. Stephanie Cutter, thank you so much for joining us.
CUTTERThanks for having me.
PAGEStephanie Cutter, she's the deputy campaign manager for President Obama. Now, we've gotten an email from Caroline who wants to correct something. She says, "One of the guests said the other one had exaggerated Romney's comment that people feel entitled to food. That is exactly what he said clearly on that video. Please don't let this go by without correction." Caroline, we've now corrected that.
PAGEHere's a question by email from Jane, who writes us, "My husband and I voted for Obama four years ago even though we trend GOP. This year, I support Obama and my husband will vote for Romney. How extensive are the numbers of couples who vote for different candidates, and is this a change from past elections?" Christine, what do you think?
MATTHEWSWhat a good question. I don't have data on that, but I would not be surprised if we are seeing more and more of those kinds of households. I would be interested -- I wish her email had said why you are sticking with Obama and why your husband is switching to Romney. What reasons does that...
PAGEWell, actually the emailer did...
PAGEJane did, I just didn't read the full email.
MATTHEWSOh, thanks, Susan.
PAGESo let me say, she writes, "I was especially supportive of the Affordable Care Act which my husband feels is too intrusive and expensive. I think Obama has done a mostly good job of handling the economy considering GOP opposition to just about everything he proposes."
MATTHEWSInteresting. You know, actually, in the data, I think, majorities of both men and women would like to repeal Obama care. I think there are provisions of it which are popular, but in many of the polls I look at, women agree with that as well. So I don't have any data on how many couples are making decisions like that. But, Margie, I think that's interesting point.
OMEROIt certainly was one of the objections to having given women the right to vote in the first place way back when was, well, you know, they'll cancel out their husband vote, or they'll just -- you know, husbands will just convince the women to vote the same way they will. So it's good to see, you know, many decades later, the fruit of suffragettes' hard work that there are now households splitting their voting and voting different ways and deciding and deciding to go different paths at the voting booth.
OMEROYou know, I do think that Jane has a interesting point about what -- about her view of Republicans and her husband's view of Republicans, and this is something that we see a lot in focus groups. So you can see a lot in the record-low approval rating of Congress is the style and tone of Washington and that there's a sense that, you know, some argue it's not sense that it's a fact that Republicans are just reflexively voting no and just opposing everything that Obama puts forward, even things that they supported themselves years ago.
OMEROWe can go through those examples, but there's a variety of them. And that just strikes women generally, voters, broadly women more specifically, as just so divergent with solving real problems. And it's just a sign that you're more focused on politics. You don't really have the urgency of helping people through an economic crisis.
PAGEYou know, we've heard a lot about shifting roles for men and women, about women more likely become primary breadwinners, some men opting for more flexible schedules for family reasons. And I wonder, these broad societal trends, do we see them reflected in voter preferences? Is this -- is a changing role of women changing the way the two genders look at elections?
OMEROWell, that's a good question. And I think, you know, I think it has a little bit. I also think that politics hasn't always caught up with those changing roles. So for -- I'll give an example. I mean, there's a lot, you know, amongst women, there's a lot of discussion of child care working -- not working, how people manage through the day of getting through all the things they need to get through, whether they work or whether they're not working.
OMEROAnd you don't see a lot of that debate about a national childcare policy happening in Washington at all. I mean, you just don't see that kind of debate. So I think there's a lot of issues that women focus on that you don't see a lot going on in the political dialogue. So that would be one example. I think healthcare is another example. There was a lot in Obamacare that helps women very specifically.
OMEROAnd women really talk about a lot of those healthcare concerns and healthcare affordability themselves 'cause they are frequently the ones in charge of healthcare for the whole family. And when you have Republicans talk about Obamacare in Washington, they're not using the language of what it means for an average family. They're really talking about, you know, sort of, every one striking on their own. You had Sen. Jon Kyl even saying, well, I don't need maternity care, so why should I have to pay for it?
OMEROAnd, you know, he's not the only one who's made a comment like that. So, you know, I think that, you know, as women continue to mobilize and engage in some of these issues, they'll really get, you know, see it's very clear, at least to me, how a lot of the tone in Washington, particularly from Republicans, doesn't take into account that women are making a lot of these decisions and feeling real disgust with how the debate is playing out.
MATTHEWSWe know -- I would actually look it at this way, which is a lot of women are starting small businesses. I do focus groups with small business owners. And, in fact, I hear different things. I hear that as women start to begin these small businesses, they are starting to see the impact of some of these regulations that have come down from the Obama administration, I mean, how difficult it is, you know, say, to get a business loan, how difficult it is to, you know, make it in this economy.
MATTHEWSAnd so women are starting to sort of share some of men's historic sort of opposition to some of these overly-regulated positions that the Democrats have. And so, again, a lot of women and small business owners are starting to see things from that perspective.
PAGEI wonder, though, I mean, one thing we hear from voters, men and women, when you got to do interviews is that they feel that they're not hearing specifics about policies. You know, it's like today's gaff. It's a battle of gaffs day by day. And I wonder, do you hear that, Margie, from women voters that they would like more specifics on the issues you're talking about, whether it's child care or helping women who are trying to start small businesses?
OMEROAbsolutely. You're absolutely right. Women feel that they're not getting enough information or that they want to hear more of a plan from the candidates. I would -- I have a few points about that. The first is, you know, if you look at -- if you watch cable news or news in general and answer the dialogue, there is a lot back and forth, and there is a focus on the conflict. I mean, there've been studies about this and about how they're more focus on conflict than on policy. And also, people are voting with their feet.
OMEROYou know, they're voting with their remote control. And so that's what ends up, you know, doing well. And I think for voters who want to just check in on occasion, it can seem, you know, that there's a real distance between what they want and what's out there. So that's really the first point. I would, however, argue -- and I know people want to say that neither candidate has a plan or putting out a plan -- polls show that more people feel that they know what Obama's plan is for his next term than they knew about what Mitt Romney's plan is.
OMEROMore people feel Obama has a plan for Medicare than feel Mitt Romney has a plan for Medicare. So I think polls show that there's more favor there, while Obama really talks more specific in his convention speech than Mitt Romney did or has since.
PAGEI'm Susan Page, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show". Well, Christine, it is true, if you go on Mitt Romney's website, you can see long position papers on things. But when you listen to the candidates on the stump, and perhaps more so with Mitt Romney -- but I would say also with Barack Obama -- they're not talking about specific issues. They're talking about the disqualifications of the other guy in many cases.
MATTHEWSWell, you know, it's tough to be a challenger, too. You got to make the case against the incumbent. And so that's what the Romney campaign has to do. So by the very nature of it, he has got to point out the reasons why you should not reelect this incumbent. So that, you know, that has been a key part of his strategy. I mean, I do think the Romney campaign, even themselves, have said, you know, I think it's -- we're going to be out with some specifics. You're going to watch the debates. I'm going to come out with some specifics.
MATTHEWSAlthough -- I just want to bring up a quick example, again in Virginia, not that it's the center of the universe, but it happens to be where I live. And in the Obama campaign, we saw a recent TV ad on education. They were talking about class sizes and how class sizes would go up under a Republican administration. Well I -- again, I find that really cynical. It really has -- you know, a president has nothing to do with class sizes. Moms know that. That has to do with your local school district.
MATTHEWSIt has to do with situations that are much more local. And so he's talking about something that really -- it's kind of pandering if you really, quite frankly, look at it.
PAGEMargie, what do you think about that?
OMEROWell, you know, I think there are a few things. I mean, one, you know, you have Republican plans that will -- I mean, first of all, you have Republicans who said they want to get rid of the Department of Education. So there's a real argument that Republicans are, you know, would cut funding from public schools. I also think that you've certainly found Republicans many, many times, blaming the president for all kinds of things.
OMEROHe has no control over, you know, gas prices going up a cent and, you know, millions of other examples. You know, the last thing that I would point out is Mitt Romney has a 59-point plan that is on his website. I don't know what happened to it. He never talks about it. Now, he was on "60 Minutes" last night, and they said, you know, what are your plans for the closing loopholes? He said, well, I'm going to work on that with Congress.
OMEROI mean, even last night, he still is not giving specifics on that one point, that one question he should know was coming. Yet he has this very elaborate plan that someone put some time into putting together a few months ago. So it's easy to think that Mitt Romney really just, you know, he doesn't, you know, he may have a plan. He doesn't know he has a plan. Right now, he's not really talking about any sort of plan. It's really easy to be confused about where Mitt Romney stands.
MATTHEWSWell, again, I mean, the bottom line is, you know, what has this incumbent done on this economy? And I think that that is what Romney has really focused on. He has not made the situation better. I do think the Romney campaign themselves are admitting that they will probably go forward with some more specifics on the Romney plan. But first, you have to make the case against the incumbent.
PAGEAll right. It's great to have you both here part of this conversation. Christine Matthews, a GOP Pollster and president of Bellwether Research and Margie Omero, a Democratic pollster and president and founder of Momentum Analysis. This last debate, I think, over the arguments that you make to voters and the role that the debates would play, that really applies to men and women voters both. Thanks for being with us this hour.
OMEROThank you so much.
MATTHEWSThank you so much.
PAGEI'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks for listening.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Denise Couture, Susan Nabors, Rebecca Kaufman, Lisa Dunn and Megan Merritt. The engineer is Toby Schreiner. Natalie Yuravlivker answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program is a production of WAMU 88.5 from American University in Washington, D.C. This is NPR.
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