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Republicans need to learn to talk to women, says GOP congresswoman

Published: Friday, Oct. 5 2012 6:28 p.m. MDT

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney walks with Jon Cummins, president and CEO of Paramount Printing, which is going out of business, in Jacksonville, Fla., Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012. From left are: Marie Cummins, Ann Romney, Cummins; Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fla.; and Romney.

Associated Press

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Republicans need to learn to talk to women, who are more "intuitive," said an eight-term Republican congresswoman from California on Wednesday. While not conceding the gender gap on the merits, Rep. Mary Bono Mack said that the GOP needs to hone its message.

Mack's comments come in an election cycle where the gender gap between the presidential candidates appears alive and well. A recent National Journal poll showed Romney leading among men by eight points, and Obama leading among women by seven points.

Speaking at an awards dinner for the Independent Women's Forum, Mack said, "You would think that I would argue with you about the conservative movement being clueless with talking to women, but I cannot argue with you because I agree with you," the Washington Examiner reported.

"I think that we are missing the boat. When you want to talk to women you must start by recognizing women are intuitive," she said. "Woman are so much more complicated than men are, and a lot more has to go into communicating with the women of America. And we need to focus on that."

The Obama campaign has worked assiduously to exploit the gap with women, accusing the GOP of waging a war on women, largely building on a scuffle between the Catholic Church and the Obama administration over its mandate requiring church charities to pay for contraceptives.

One result of this conflict was the elevation of an obscure 30-year-old Georgetown graduate student, Sandra Fluke, who testified before Congress that students at Georgetown like her needed free contraceptives. She was ripped by Rush Limbaugh for that statement and then later spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin played directly into the meme with a controversial comment on "legitimate rape," in which he offered some unique perspectives on human biology while drawing a distinction between "legitimate rape" and some other kind of rape. Akin has since gotten himself in more hot water on the abortion issue.

Akin's comments evoked Whoopi Goldberg's similar comments on The View about the Roman Polanski case, where she defended the disgraced film director's assault on a teenage girl, declaring it was not "rape rape."

Akin was quickly disowned by the Republican establishment and pressured to withdraw. He refused. As of now, despite being jettisoned by the party, Akin stands a good chance of winning his race against incumbent Claire McCaskill.

Building on the fight with the Cathoic Church, and on the missteps such as Akin's and Limbaugh's (in the Fluke matter), the Obama administration has woven a "war on women" theme into the 2012 campaign, including a use of very feisty ecards.

The campaign has left Kay Bailey Hutchison, a GOP senator from Texas, less than impressed.

"To say that there is a set of concerns that can be labeled "women's issues" is absolutely true. To assume that we all feel the same way about them — or that we must feel the same way about them to represent our gender legitimately — is inherently sexist," wrote Hutchison in an August CNN op-ed article.

Hutchison's observation is borne out in a Gallup poll on abortion earlier this year, which showed that women and men are almost evenly split between "pro-life" and "pro-choice" on abortion.

Meanwhile, in related news, UK-based Journeyman.tv released a somber new mini-documentary on the Taliban's "War on Women" in Afghanistan, where, needless to say, free contraceptives are not the overriding concern.

Eric Schulzke writes on national politics for the Deseret News. He can be contacted at eschulzke@desnews.com.

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