Who's really waging the so-called "war on women"?
Barack Obama, Democrats and feminists accuse Republicans of firing the first shots and aiming to keep women down. Mitt Romney, Republicans and conservative women's groups blame Democrats for starting the fight for political gain.
"Women, in particular, have been hurt by this president," Romney, the presumed GOP presidential nominee, recently told Fox News.
There's little question that the political battle for the women's vote is intensifying, as Democrats were on the march this weekend across the nation -- including Jefferson City and Topeka -- protesting what they see as an assault on reproductive rights.
Yet some wonder whether the fierce infighting, and the so-called "gender gap" between the candidates, will have much impact on the outcome of the presidential election this fall, and whether any of this is all that new.
Democrats traditionally hold an edge with women voters, while Republicans tend to do better among men.
When the smoke clears, however, the economy could still be the deciding factor in November. If it's improving, Obama could easily win re-election. If it's in decline, say hello to President Romney.
"The economy makes or breaks an incumbent president," said Washburn University political scientist Bob Beatty. "Where issues like this become more important is if the economy is in a gray area in the run-up to the election."
Still, Democrats insist the furor over Rush Limbaugh and what they describe as GOP attacks on women has stirred their base after years of lethargy due to the faltering economy. That reawakening was on display Saturday as hundreds marched on the state Capitols in Kansas and Missouri.
"It is essential that we stand up for our rights now and work together against this effort to destroy women's rights," said Paula Willmarth, a co-leader of the Missouri march.
"People are riled up again," agreed Lesa Patterson-Kinsey, president of True Blue Women, a group of Kansas Democratic women.
Republicans, however, call Democratic efforts to focus on gender "clumsy" and "divisive."
"What they (Democrats) are doing is floating balloons and seeing what catches on," said Patrick Tuohey, a business and GOP political consultant based in Kansas City. "And something that catches on now may have absolutely no bearing on what may happen in November."
In an emotional speech on Friday, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio accused Democrats of inventing a Republican war on women.
"Now we are going to have a fight over women's health," Boehner said. "Give me a break. This is the latest plank in the so-called 'war on women' entirely created -- entirely created -- by my colleagues across the aisle for political gain. To accuse us of wanting to gut women's health is absolutely not true."
That a gender gap exists in American politics is unmistakable.
In 2008, Obama won the presidency precisely because of it. Exit surveys showing Obama and John McCain, the Republican senator from Arizona, virtually splitting the vote among men -- 49 percent to 48 percent in favor of Obama, according to The New York Times' exit poll. But among women, Obama won 56 percent to 43 percent.
That begins to explain why Obama and the Democrats consider women key to
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