There is a moment in every recent election when issues that women care about become the critical issues of the campaign. This moment might arise because of a candidate’s mistress (Clinton) or because a woman is on the ticket (other Clinton, Sarah Palin). Is it possible we’re on the verge of that moment now? This was supposed to be an election about the economy. But these last couple of weeks it’s veered into an all out culture war, which tends to make candidates pay attention to women. (Women are, after all, 53 percent of voters). Women were already enraged about the contraceptive bills and state laws proposing to forced women who want abortions to have ultrasounds before Rush Limbaugh called Georgetown Law School student Sandra Fluke a slut. And unlike abortion, where people tend to have fixed positions, a contraceptive war has the potential to stir up even the apathetic.
Also unlike the last decade of abortion wars, the left seems to be playing this one perfectly. First they took a lesson from the right and went right to the outer edge, calling forced government ultrasound a form of forcible penetration and then rape. Then within days Obama jumped in, first a little awkwardly (Did he really have to call Fluke?), and then in perfect stately fashion, announcing that he would speak at Barnard. If Mitt Romney wins Super Tuesday he will try his best to shut down all the contraception talk and move back onto more sober ground. But with advertisers and sponsors dropping Limbaugh by the minute, the story won’t die so quickly.