Romney’s Woman Problem

On the evening of Super Tuesday, a radiant Ann Romney stepped up to the microphone at a Boston rally and took her best shot at changing the subject.

“Do you know what women care about?” she said. “Women care about jobs. Women care about the economy. They care about their children, and they care about the debt.”

Translation: Please, please, please stop asking my husband about Rush Limbaugh.

I hear you, sister.

As all of the country knows, Limbaugh called 30-year-old law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” and asked her to post online video of her sex life. Mitt Romney’s response — “it’s not the language I would have used” — didn’t exactly close the distance between him and the millions of mothers whose hair was on fire.

We wanted fatherly outrage. He gave us a CEO’s shrug.

I still am trying to figure out what exactly Republican presidential candidates think they’re going to lose if they criticize Limbaugh for publicly trash talking a woman young enough to be their daughter. What part of their base are they afraid to alienate? Or claim, even?

Now, it could be I’m just spoiled — being from Ohio and all.

Here in Cleveland, Dan Gilbert — the majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the founder and chairman of Quicken Loans — was one of the first to drop his advertising on Limbaugh’s show after the pundit’s vile. Yes, it’s fair to ask what took him so long, but I always have told my kids you can’t ask someone to change and then not give him the chance to do it. Living the lecture here.

Secondly, I grew up with a dad who liked to sit on the front porch with a baseball bat on his lap whenever a boy showed up to date one of his daughters. He never used it. Then again, he never had to. He laid the ground rules early. It used to drive me crazy, of course, to have every boy be so afraid of my dad. Still, I did feel that special brand of ain’t-I-special teenage confidence born of fatherly love and boyfriend paranoia. In retrospect, a blissful time.


Back to Ann Romney. She’s right, of course. Women do care about the economy. And children. And debt. And it’s nice to hear at least one Republican acknowledge that.

However, we women are complicated creatures, capable of holding any number of thoughts in our heads. At the same time, too. Nothing but trouble for the Romneys of the world.

We’re also good at connecting the dots. I’ll go so far as to say we’re annoyingly good at it, which is why our concern for the economy (dot) fuels our demand for affordable health care (dot) that includes low-cost contraception (dot), which is way cheaper than a full-term pregnancy (dot), not to mention what it costs to raise a child to 18 years of age (dot).

Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot.

Oh, and the majority of us believe abortion should remain legal (dot) because we trust women (dot) to make their own decisions (dot) about their bodies (dot).

Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot.

We’re on fire, I swear.

And I’m just talking about the women in Ohio, where we’ve had it up to here with the state Legislature’s attempts to reclassify us as branded cattle. I appreciate Mrs. Romney’s attempt to focus on jobs, but we already heard that campaign promise in 2010. Two months later, we had pregnant women exposing their bellies for ultrasound “testimony” in the Republican-controlled state House.

They’re all yours, Mitt Romney. Welcome to the circus.

One more thing you should know before you come back to Ohio. We’re big on dogs here, and I’m afraid we know all about poor roof-strappin’ Seamus.

I think you know where I’m going with this. I’m not going to harp. I leave that to New York Times columnist Gail Collins, a fellow native Ohioan.

She’s done our state proud, with her Midwestern connect-the-dots stick-to-it-ness.

There I go again, braggin’ about our women.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and an essayist for Parade magazine. She is the author of two books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Contact her at



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