The New York Times is cranking up the old reliable "War on Women" weapon to target the crop of Republicans running for the presidency. Saturday's lead story by Patrick Healy (pictured) and Jeremy Peters portrayed the aftermath of the GOP debate not as a tough, substantive debate but as yet another source for Democratic attack ads portraying the party as anti-woman: "Fear That Debate Could Hurt G.O.P.In Women's Eyes – Remarks Under Attack – Concern Grows That the Candidates Were Not Inclusive Enough."
And it wasn't just Donald Trump's vulgar slam against Fox News host Megyn Kelly.
After Senator Marco Rubio of Florida insisted at the Republican presidential debate that rape and incest victims should carry pregnancies to term, aides to Hillary Rodham Clinton could barely contain their delight at his unyielding stance, rushing to tell reporters at her headquarters that those remarks would hurt Mr. Rubio with female voters.
And in response to multiple male candidates saying they would shut down the federal government over financing for Planned Parenthood, the Democratic National Committee emailed talking points to allies within an hour saying that among the losers at the debate were “American women, who were attacked at every turn.”
Republican Party leaders, whose presidential nominees have not won a majority of female voters since 1988, are setting their sights on making electoral gains among women in the 2016 presidential race and trying to close the gender gap in swing states like Florida and Colorado. But the remarks and tone about women at Thursday’s debate -- and the sight of 10 male candidates owning the stage -- may have only damaged the party’s standing among female voters in the 2016 general election, according to pollsters and some Republican leaders.
“So much of the debate was all about appealing to male voters and other parts of the Republican base, rather than doing anything to help the party’s general election goal of trying to be more inclusive,” said Lee M. Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “By being callous or showing disregard toward women, and then laughing it off with a charge of political correctness or simply saying they’re taking conservative stands, the Republicans could win over some of the older male Republican voters out there. But what about female voters?”
Democrats were gleeful at the tone of the debate, already imagining future campaign advertisements featuring debate cutaways with Mr. Rubio saying that future Americans will “call us barbarians for murdering millions of babies.”
The Times managed to turn the debate's huge audience into a potential negative for the party:
Several prominent Republican women said they were worried that the candidates would only hurt themselves, and the party, if they did not change the substance and style of their remarks at future debates, which will be held monthly this fall and winter. Thursday’s debate attracted an enormous audience of 24 million viewers; the next debate will be Sept. 16 and broadcast on CNN.
Mr. Walker’s fiercely stated opposition to an abortion ban exception to protect the life of the woman, for instance, prompted a tweet from the Clinton campaign -- “Problem for Scott Walker: 24 million people heard how out of touch he is on women’s health” -- but also teeth-gnashing from some female Republicans.
Healy and Peters worked hard to spin some compliments for Carly Fiorina, the only female in the Republican field, as just good old boys condescending to a female.
Many Republicans had worried that Ms. Fiorina’s exclusion from the prime-time debate would expose the party to criticism that it was giving second-class treatment to its only female candidate. While onstage, she nonetheless had to endure some awkward moments with her male colleagues. When Rick Perry was answering a question about Iran, he said that he would prefer to have “Carly Fiorina over there doing our negotiation than John Kerry,” apparently an insinuation that she would be subordinate to a president.
It was not the first time Ms. Fiorina has been the subject of that kind of backhanded compliment. When asked what woman should be on the $10 bill at a candidates’ forum on Monday, Rick Santorum answered, “Carly is a pretty good choice.”
The Times' Amy Chozick wasn't nearly so protective of Fiorina in a March 2015 article after Fiorina had the nerve to criticize Hillary Clinton.