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Politics




GOP focuses on the enthusiasm gap, ignores the gender gap
Portman dismisses comments from Todd Akin as "incredibly offensive."
by WKSU's M.L. SCHULTZE
This story is part of a special series.


Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
 
Janet Creighton is a Republican delegate from Canton and says reproductive rights is far from the defining issue women base their votes on.
Courtesy of M.L. Schultze
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Republicans are talking a lot at the convention this week about the enthusiasm gap – and a lot less about the gender gap. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze reports from Tampa about how the GOP hopes to sway Ohio.

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Ari Fleisher helped engineer George W. Bush’s win in Ohio in 2004 with the help of a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage that drove many conservative voters to the polls. 

After he spoke at the Ohio delegation breakfast this morning , Fleisher suggested Mitt Romney will need no such boost to drive his voters.

 “Look at the energy that’s been created in Ohio especially since Paul Ryan is on the ticket,” Schultze says. “There is such a deep energy that you can feel in the Republican Party that is absent in the Democratic Party this year. I think the enthusiasm gap of 2012, where Republicans have the advantage, is going to be what really brings out the voters and tips the scale in Ohio.”

Fleischer acknowledged that Romney’s pick of Paul Ryan as his running mate didn’t move the polls overall in Ohio. But they did make Republicans more passionate.

“In poll after poll, you look at who is more interested in the election, who is more likely to turn out and you see the Democrats have a real problem,” Fleischer says. “Their base, especially being younger, are much less likely to turn out and the republican base is much more likely to turn out. And if you are managing a race, those are the internals you look for. It is the crucial question in all the polls.”

The enthusiasm gap is big talk here in Tampa. 

While delegates were closeted in a large conference room during a tornado warning, Ohio Republican Party Executive Director Matt Borges talked about it at the top level.

“The Ohio Republican Party is 100 percent bought in,” Borges says. “The Kasich team is 100 percent bought in. We got staff and volunteers out knocking on doors every single weekend and making calls every night.”

Mitt Romney’s Ohio State Director Scott Jennings talked about it at the technical level.

“We’ve signed up about 4000 new volunteers—people have signed up through our event ticketing process online,” Jennings says. “Or they have gone to the event and then as soon as they leave, they get an e-mail from us asking “did you like what you heard and now will you volunteer?”

But it’s usually left to the press to raise another gap…the gender gap.  Polls show women favor President Obama by 10 or more percentage points. And much of the debate over the women’s vote is tied to reproductive rights.

Republicans have supported the call to exempt Catholic churches, universities, hospitals and other employers from having insurance that includes birth control. The Republican platform includes a plank banning all abortions without exceptions for rape or incest. And that came on the heels of Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akins claim that women who are “legitimately raped” can’t get pregnant.

In a press scrum after his speech, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman was asked about Akins and the platform. He says it’s a side issue.

“Those comments you just mentioned by Todd Akin are incredibly offensive, it is certainly not getting anybody off-track here,” Portman says. “It is certainly not getting me off-track because I’m just dismissing them. It is not what this party stands for and it’s not what I stand for. I think the central message continues to be ‘how are we going to get this economy back on track?’”

Janet Creighton is the former mayor of Canton who went to work in the Bush WhiteHouse before returning to Stark county. She indicated theirs room for debate even among Republicans.

“I have always felt that the abortion issue has no place in national politics,” Creighton says. “That is my personal opinion. I like the idea that a woman can decide on her own, but woman now are a driving force. I call us the old stamp lickers and envelope stuffers. We are not that anymore. We are leading corporations, historical institutions, educational facilities. We are in elected offices, we are housewives, we are mothers, we manage budgets. I don’t think it is not always just the social issues—It really comes down to who they feel who is better equipped to lead the nation through an economic crisis. And quite frankly, our candidate is better equipped than Barack Obama.”

Then Creighton, like the others, quickly turned back to the gap that’s favoring Republicans.

The first national show of that enthusiasm comes with the formal opening of the convention after a one-day delay caused by Hurricane Isaac. And two Ohioans, Portman and Gov. John Kasich are among the headliners.

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