The Truthiness of the Romney Campaign's Female Voter Outreach

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 16 2012 9:00 AM

The Truthiness of the Romney Campaign's Female Voter Outreach

If you missed Fox News Sunday, you slept through a chuckle-ready interaction between Chris Wallace and new Romney campaign consigliere Ed Gillespie. (This came right after an interview with David Axelrod, but by my lights the Romney surro-grilling went better. Wallace wasted a little too much time "nailing" Axelrod on whether the president would "contribute money to the Treasury to help with the deficit" out of shame about his low tax rate.) Gillespie, one of the great shameless men of the flack game*, went all the way with a Romney campaign economic factoid that doesn't pan out.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

GILLESPIE: You know, 858,000 women have lost their jobs since President Obama took office, 92.3 percent of the job loss in the recession and slow recovery, type of recovery, have fallen on woman. We have --
WALLACE: Wait, wait, wait. You know that -- I mean, it is true that more women have lost jobs and it's true that more women are without jobs now.
GILLESPIE: Yes.
WALLACE: But it is not true that 90 percent, if they did under Obama, but many, many more men, because they are in the job sector's that people lost jobs first lost jobs under President Bush. So, I mean, it's a little bit of an accounting trick and all of the independent fact-finders it's misled.
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This is the reason why the factoid isn't true. (Does it matter? It's being driven into every news consumer's brain anyway.) How would Gillespie respond?

GILLESPIE: First of all, these independent fact-finders aren't very independent. If you look at their bona fides, they tend to come from left-wing organizations.
WALLACE: Washington Post?
GILLESPIE: What Washington Post quoted were liberal economists. And the Washington Post even acknowledged --

This isn't an answer! Last week's A3 Washington Post story about the real cost of Obamacare wasn't from an "independent" economist. It's an irrelevent point, and Wallace moves on.

WALLACE: But you agree more men than women lost jobs in this recession?
GILLESPIE: More men than women lost jobs before President Obama took office. More women lost jobs since President Obama took office. The fact that more men lost before he took office doesn't make it a good thing that more lost since he took office. It's a bad thing and we need to reverse that.

He ends by admitting that the talking point isn't true. Wallace took Gillespie's argument, ran it through a shredder, then backed the Buick up over the scraps. And Gillespie didn't notice. The shamelessness of the Romney campaign is the winningest part of it -- start with the 2011 ad that quoted Obama quoting John McCain, continue with the negative ads that hit other Republicans for raising the debt limit (as if a President Romney would never do this), and label a Democratic strategist who was not working for the Obama campaign an "Obama adviser." On Saturday, Chris Hayes's show dredged up a clip from four months ago in which Romney saluted the "dignity of work" when moms left the home to rivet things. Did it nullify the outrage over the "Obama adviser's" comment? The campaign responded to Alex Jaffe:

The sad fact is that under President Obama, the poverty rate among women rose to 14.5 percent in 2011, the highest rate in 17 years. The Obama administration's economic policies have been devastating to women and families.

If the fact is wrong, the response is HEY, look over there at that shiny object.

*My favorite Gillespie moment came during the 2004 campaign, when he insisted that John Kerry's campaign had to answer for CBS's bungled report on George W. Bush's National Guard days. "What did the Kerry campaign know," asked Gillespie, "and when did they know it?" Nothing, really. But the Howard Baker tribute was aimed right at the cockles of the press corps, and it hit.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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