Reince Priebus Is Right: The GOP Doesn't Have a Woman Problem

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Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus denied that his party has a woman problem in a way that made a feminist argument, even if it was on accident: women shouldn't be considered a special interest group, but maybe old men should. "It's a fiction," Priebus said in an interview that will air on Bloomberg Television's Political Capital with Al Hunt this weekend. "If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we’d have problems with caterpillars." Priebus is right, though for the wrong reason. Republicans don't have a problem with women -- they have a problem with everyone who's not a man over 50.

For years, some women have complained about being treated as an interest group, despite making up a slim majority of all human beings on Earth. Other women don't mind the interest group image: "The jury of women across America have ruled that the Republicans have been unbelievably extreme and out of touch and hyper-focused on cultural issues," Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said an interview that will air on the same Bloomberg show. 

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But, as pundit and political consultant Philip Bump pointed out, young women are not acting like an interest group with preferences vastly different from the rest of the electorate, as Priebus indicated. In a USA Today/ Gallup poll released this week the major outliers are older men: Bump's chart, at left, shows that the poll finds men under 50, women under 50, and women over 50 all support President Obama over Romney by a signifiant margin. Men over 50 back Romney by 18 points. (Making up just 16 percent of the population in the 2010 census, perhaps men over 50 should form a special interest group?) Though USA Today credited "a huge shift of women to his side" for President Obama's 9-point lead over Mitt Romney in swing states, it'd be more accurate to credit the loyalty of old men for keeping Romney from being slaughtered in the poll. 

And Wasserman Schultz's argument that women are freaked out by Republican positions on social issues is undercut by the fact that the Republican candidate most associated with social issues performs better with women than Romney does. That goes for swing state voters as well as Republican primary voters in several states. Instead of claiming that women are recoiling from contraception hearings and Rush Limbaugh insults, it would be more accurate for Wasserman Schultz to argue that it's old men who are cheering them on.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.