When I saw the headline of this Politico story, I was ready to be excited:
Exclusive: GOP poll of women: Party 'stuck in past'Wow! This really could be a death knell for the GOP!
A detailed report commissioned by two major Republican groups -- including one backed by Karl Rove -- paints a dismal picture for Republicans, concluding female voters view the party as "intolerant," "lacking in compassion" and "stuck in the past."
Women are "barely receptive" to Republicans' policies, and the party does "especially poorly" with women in the Northeast and Midwest, according to an internal Crossroads GPS and American Action Network report obtained by POLITICO....
Except that I scrolled down a few more paragraphs and saw this:
The report ... says 49 percent of women view Republicans unfavorably, while just 39 percent view Democrats unfavorably.Really? That's the gap that supposed to make me think the GOP is doomed? And there's also this:
One bright spot is among married women. Married women without a college degree view Republicans favorably, the polling shows. Married women prefer a Republican over a Democrat, 48 percent to 38 percent.What's going on here? It seems obvious. The GOP can be divided into to groups: people -- Karl Rove, for instance -- who think the party needs to tack somewhat leftward on one or two issues in order to be as successful in presidential races as it is in House, Senate, and state and local elections, and people who believe that the presidency can be won by a True Conservative or (because they're elected officials from the House, Senate, or a state or local government, or affiliated with such officials) just don't care all that much about winning the presidency because theirpositions are secure, and because they know how much power the GOP already has without the presidency.
People in the latter group already understood that the GOP's situation isn't particularly dire -- you can point to all sorts of bad polls for Republicans, but Republicans are almost certain to have a very good Election Day this November, so why should they fix what's not broken? Republicans will do well because Democratic voter groups -- single women, young people, non-whites -- are outvoted in non-presidential elections by Republican voter groups. Where's the problem?
And even if Rove and his pals persuade the party to inch leftward on an issue or two, consider how little the "reformers" are recommending:
The groups suggest a three-pronged approach to turning around their relationship with women. First, they suggest the GOP "neutralize the Democrats'" attack that Republicans don't support fairness for women. They suggest Republican lawmakers criticize Democrats for "growing government programs that encourage dependency rather than opportunities to get ahead." That message tested better than explaining that the GOP supports a number of policies that could help fairness for women.In other words, maintain the status quo while demagoguing Democrats.
Second, the groups suggest Republicans "deal honestly with any disagreement on abortion, then move to other issues."In other words, maintain the status quo while hastily changing the subject.
And third, "pursue policy innovations that inspire women voters to give the GOP a 'fresh look.'" The report suggests lawmakers and candidates inject "unexpected" GOP policy proposals into the debate as a way to sway female voters. Suggestions include ways to improve job-training programs, "strengthening enforcement against gender bias in the workplace" and "expanding home health care services by allowing more health care professionals to be paid by Medicare for home health services."Well, those would be improvements over current Republican policies, though they don't add up to much. They would be to the future GOP what No Child Left Behind and the Medicare prescription drug benefit were to the Bush/Rove GOP -- bones thrown to moderates while the main economic thrust of the party's domestic policies was enriching the rich.
And what's the likelihood that the party would embrace these reforms anyway? The unfavorability gap is only 10 points. Republicans handily win plenty of elections. I doubt they'll do anything until Democrats deal them a thumping in a non-presidential year, or a Goldwater-in-'64 blowout in a presidential year. So vote, dammit.