A clear victor has emerged in the Republican war on women. Women.
With women breaking strongly for President Barack Obama and a banner year for women candidates, one thing is clear: the 2012 election is a mandate for women’s equality and reproductive rights.
Let’s first take a look at the presidential vote. In a year when women’s issues were hotly debated and Democrats touted their pro-women principles, women favored Obama by 11 points. The president also benefited from an 11-point gender gap and women’s higher turnout. Making up 53% of the electorate, according to preliminary results, women accounted for the lion’s share of Obama’s current 2.5 million vote lead. Obama racked up astoundingly large margins among several subgroups: single women went for him by a 36-point margin, Latinas by a 51-point margin. Despite the Romney campaign’s insistence that women would break for him on the economy, Obama’s support among women overall was nearly identical with his showing in the historic 2008 election.
Women’s rights likewise played a starring role in one of last night’s unanticipated headlines. Twenty women, a record number, are likely headed to the US Senate. All but one are pro-choice Democrats who campaigned, as well, as feminists. The story in the US House of Representatives was similar, if not quite as spectacular. These female candidates were lifted to victory by women’s disgust at Republican attacks on women, which was then channeled by women-focused political action committees, such as Emily’s List, Women Vote, and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, into successful and well-funded campaigns.
Women’s pro-Democratic leanings were particularly apparent in states with high-profile women candidates supported by these PACs. In Wisconsin, for example, Tammy Baldwin won women by a 17-point margin to became the first openly lesbian woman elected to the US Senate. Baldwin defeated former three-term governor and Bush cabinet secretary Tommy Thompson, who did nothing to endear himself with the ladies when he explained that he became a lobbyist because “my wife likes to shop, OK?”