Republican Terri Lynn Land Tried to Win Over Michigan Women by Pointing Out That She's a Woman. It Didn't…

What Women Really Think
July 29 2014 10:21 AM

A Female Candidate in Michigan Won't Help Republicans Win Women Voters

Terri Lynn Land
Terri Lynn Land

Courtesy of Michigan Secretary of State's Office via Wikimedia Commons

Republicans have organized game plans and boot camps in an attempt to battle the "war on women" narrative. But in practice, their strategy has boiled down to one major initiative: ladies to the front. Put some female faces on the conservative agenda—particularly in the parts where equal pay and reproductive rights are being resisted—and hope that the disconnect between policy and politician is enough to stump the voters.

This year, that strategy is being put to the test in the Michigan Senate race between Republican Terri Lynn Land and Democrat Gary Peters. Peters and his supporters have been highlighting Land's opposition to equal pay legislation and to legal abortion, even in cases of rape. Land has replied with an ad where she scoffs at Peters’ accusation that she’s waging a "war on women," and sarcastically replies, "Really? Think about that for a moment," before sipping her coffee quietly to let viewers take a long look at her female face. "As a woman, I might know a little bit more about women than Gary Peters," she concludes, in case some people didn't get the point. 

Terri Lynn Land
Terri Lynn Land

Photo courtesy Michigan Secretary of State's Office via Wikimedia Commons (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Terri_Lynn_Land_portrait_crop.jpg)

Advertisement

How's the strategy working out for Land? Not well, reports Benjy Sarlin of MSNBC. While the race was tight for a while, Peters "now boasts a significant lead in recent polling," Sarlin writes. "This month an NBC News/Marist poll put him up 43-37 and the most recent survey by EPIC-MRA gave him his biggest lead yet: 45-36."

Sarlin notes that "Pollsters credited a surge in Peters’ position to a widening gender gap." As for the commercial, "Republican messaging guru Frank Luntz later said on FOX News that Land’s ad tested worse with focus groups than any other he had seen this election cycle." Sarlin interviews voters and finds that the messaging about the war on women is hitting close to home, with voters expressing concerns about reproductive rights, equal pay, and fears about gender rating in insurance returning. In retrospect, Land probably shouldn't have asked voters how it could be possible for a woman to oppose other women, because that just encouraged them to look for the answer. 

In fact, running female candidates has never done much to improve Republican performance with female voters. In June, the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake "looked at eight marquee Senate races between 2006 and 2012 in which [Republicans] nominated a female candidate," and found an average 15-point gender gap between male and female voters in these races, which aligns with the gender gap for Republicans overall. Women don't favor other women so much as they favor Democrats of either gender, a preference that stems mostly from women being less hostile to a social safety net than men are. 

The biggest blunder that Republicans have made is they've grown bolder about tying traditional "women's" issues to the social safety net issues that actually move women at the polls. Women are protective of health care access, welfare, and protections for workers. These are three issues that Republicans have made even more gendered by using contraception coverage to attack Obamacare, single mothers to attack welfare, and opposition to equal pay legislation (as well as attacks on contraception coverage in employer-offered health care plans) to undermine worker's rights. By singling out women for abuse in the attacks on the liberal agenda, Republicans have really bolstered the image that they have something against women. Running a few female candidates isn't enough to erase that picture.

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Yes, Black Families Tend to Spank More. That Doesn’t Mean It’s Good for Black Kids.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge

Politics

The GOP’s Focus on Fake Problems

Why candidates like Scott Walker are building campaigns on drug tests for the poor and voter ID laws.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Iran and the U.S. Are Allies Against ISIS but Aren’t Ready to Admit It Yet

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Foreigners
Sept. 16 2014 4:08 PM More Than Scottish Pride Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 5:07 PM One Comedy Group Has the Perfect Idea for Ken Burns’ Next Project
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 1:48 PM Why We Need a Federal Robotics Commission
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 16 2014 4:09 PM It’s All Connected What links creativity, conspiracy theories, and delusions? A phenomenon called apophenia.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.