One thing that I’m really looking forward to during this campaign season is observing Thom Tillis as he attempts to move toward the center on many of the so-called women’s issues that will undoubtedly occupy a considerable amount of the campaign’s time throughout the election season.
During previous legislative sessions, Tillis worked steadily to build a staunchly conservative voting record on women’s reproductive rights, health care, tax cuts to programs that overwhelmingly benefit low-income women and families (or tax reform, if that’s your preferred flavor), and education. Now that he’s clinched the GOP nomination, Tillis is going to have to moderate his views on key women’s issues, and it’s going to be fascinating to watch.
I would say that where women’s issues are concerned, Tillis has problems and his campaign knows he has problems. In a recent Washington Post article, Tillis’ campaign denounced that any “War on Women” actually exists. Of course they denounced that there’s any such thing; it’s been a huge boon for Democratic fundraisers and women’s groups since it first surfaced in 2008. As a matter of fact, Sen. Hagan on Tuesday released a very lengthy press release aimed at raising money on Tillis’ “anti-women’s health agenda” for which he’s advocated while speaker.
Regardless of how hokey the “war on women” line may be, the mere fact that members of the GOP and their surrogates find themselves explaining again and again just why there’s no such thing is telling, and Tillis’ campaign is no exception.
In the same Post article referenced above, Jordan Shaw, Tillis’ campaign manager, said they are working to reach out to more women through their “Women for Tillis” coalition. The speaker’s wife, Ms. Susan Tillis, will help the campaign with outreach as well. According to Shaw, the campaign must “do a better job communicating a message that female voters respond to and you do that by talking about the economy and family budgets and things that far left Democrats in Washington forget.” Basically, Shaw quickly pivots from “war on women” to a line about “jobs and the economy” because he knows what he’s doing and he knows Tillis has a terrible record on women’s reproductive rights and health.
Much like other GOP candidates in recent elections, Tillis and his campaign appears to believe that women will choose to vote for Tillis if they can properly communicate his message to them. I don’t believe this is true; GOP candidates are having trouble with winning women over because Republican candidates time and again refuse to change their antiquated stances on a litany of issues important to women. (This is before even factoring in viral sound bytes such as “binders full of women,” “legitimate rape,” and “Bayer aspirin [can be used] for contraception” comments made by former GOP candidates and surrogates.) One website, “Days Without a GOP Rape Mention,” aggregates all GOP comments made about the topic and provides links to each individual article.
The ‘it’s just a communication problem’ argument is, at best, a weak (not to mention lazy) strategy that’s already proven to be ineffective and is, at worst, insulting to women voters. No, Mr. Tillis, your campaign doesn’t have communication problems—it has policy problems.
Note: This post has been updated to clarify the date of a press release. The press release referenced in this post was released by the Hagan campaign on June 24, 2014.