Romney’s “Binders” gaffe heightens campaigns’ focus on women voters
GREELEY, Colo. — If the first presidential cut deep into President Barack Obama’s lead with women voters, his campaign is hoping that Mitt Romney’s comments in the second debate Tuesday night will help Obama regain his edge.
Already Wednesday, it was clear that the debate had focused even more attention on women’s issues and a voting bloc of paramount importance to both campaigns, both of which spent the day jockeying for position and gearing their messages at women.
When Vice President Joe Biden took the stage here Wednesday afternoon, he wasted little time attacking Republican Mitt Romney over his comment in Tuesday night’s debate that he was given “binders of women” when looking to fill cabinet positions as governor of Massachusetts.
“When Gov. Romney was asked a question about equal pay, he started talking about binders! Whoa,” Biden exclaimed. “The idea that he had to go and ask where a qualified woman was…he just should have come to my house.”
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, who spoke to the crowd before Biden took the stage, hit the same note with almost the exact same line.
“He may have binders full of women, but I live in a house of women and they’re not amused,” Bennet said.
Meanwhile, during campaign rallies in Iowa and Ohio Wednesday, President Obama picked up on the binders meme, which exploded almost immediately, spawning a Twitter account, a Tumblr blog and a website, www.bindersfullofwomen.com — all of them mocking Romney and his rambling explanation that he sought to hire women as governor.
“Science and technology, engineering, and math…we should make sure all our young people, our daughters as well as our sons, are thriving in these fields. This should be a national mission,” Obama said in Iowa. “I’ve got to tell you, we don’t have to collect a bunch of binders to find qualified, talented, driven young women to learn and teach in these fields right now.
“And when women graduate, they should get equal pay for equal work. That should be a simple question to answer,” continued Obama, poking at Romney for an uncertain position on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
During the debate, Romney didn’t clarify his stance on the legislation, the first bill Obama signed into law as president; but after the debate, a Romney adviser told reporters in the spin room that Romney opposed it, as Paul Ryan does, before qualifying the response that Romney opposed it when it was passed but wouldn’t veto it if elected president.
“It’s troubling that Mitt Romney’s campaign still can’t get their answer straight on where Mitt Romney stands on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which gives women greater ability to enforce in court their right to fair pay,” said Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter Wednesday. “The Romney campaign is making what should be an easy answer extremely complicated. But, for millions of women, there is nothing complicated about it.”
Late Wednesday, the Obama campaign emailed a roundup of headlines focusing on Romney’s statements and stumbles on women’s issues Tuesday night.
Within minutes, the Romney campaign followed suit with an email titled, “Mitt Romney’s Strong Record on Women”, the clearest sign that Boston recognizes that Romney, who’d made tremendous gains with women voters since his performance in the first debate two weeks ago, may have suffered a few self-inflicted wounds.
“Of the twenty top positions in the Romney administration, ten of them were filled by women, more than any other state in the nation,” writes Healy, who served as Romney’s lieutenant governor. “Romney’s Chief of Staff was a woman — Beth Myers. As we took office, our administration actively sought to recruit the best and brightest women the Commonwealth had to offer. And Governor Romney wasn’t just checking a box. He sought out our counsel, and he listened to our advice.”
Another indicator that Team Romney is working feverishly to hold onto its recent gains with women: a brand new television ad released Wednesday featuring three former Romney cabinet members.
“He totally gets working women,” says Ellen Roy Herzfelder in the spot.
“It’s so important to have someone who you respect and work for that understands how important family is,” says another unidentified women at the end of the ad.]
Another Romney ad directly responds to an array of Democratic ads attacking Romney on women’s issues. In it, a woman explains that Romney actually supports birth control and isn’t opposed to abortion in every case.
“You know, those ads say Mitt Romney would ban all abortions and contraception seemed a bit extreme, so I looked into it,” says a woman identified as Sarah Minto, who is shown on camera doing a Google search to fact-check Romney’s positions on abortion.
“It turns out Romney doesn’t oppose contraception at all. In fact, he thinks abortion should be an option in cases of rape, incest or to save a mother’s life.”
The ads are an aggressive effort to push back against a coordinated Democratic ad campaign that seeks to portray Romney as extreme on women’s health issues.
In Colorado, the Obama campaign had already been running an ad highlighting Romney’s primary season promise to “get rid of” funding for Planned Parenthood; and MoveOn.org also has a spot on the air featuring actress Scarlett Johanssen, Kerry Washington and Eva Longoria encouraging women to vote for Obama because of Romney’s opposition to abortion and Planned Parenthood.