When we last checked in on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, he was playing down his problems with women voters and boasting of his strong support among men. Somebody must have read his poll numbers a little more closely, because on Tuesday Walker came out with an ad that brazenly lies about his stance on abortion.
The guy who signed anti-choice legislation mandating an ultrasound and sharply regulating clinics looked straight into a camera and said he did it "to increase safety and to provide more information for a woman considering her options." That’s not all. Walker had the audacity to claim, "The bill leaves the final decision to a woman and her doctor."
But Walker wasn’t alone in trying to cut and run on his women’s rights stands this week. In Tuesday night debates, GOP Senate hopefuls Cory Gardner of Colorado and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, like Walker, shamelessly misrepresented their positions as well.
Gardner, Walker and Tillis tried to model three different approaches to hiding their awful records on women’s rights: the cool, the creepy and the clueless.
Gardner’s been the cool one. You’ll recall he decided he backs over the counter birth control pills, so they’re available for all you swingin’ ladies “round the clock” (though as I’ve observed before, birth control isn’t like Viagra or condoms, and picking up a last minute pack at the 24 hour Walgreens won’t prevent pregnancy.) Gardner did even better at his debate with Sen. Mark Udall, bragging that when television ads claimed he wanted to limit birth control, his wife said, "Didn't you used to pick up my prescription?" Cool guy, always helping the ladies get it on.
Walker is just plain creepy. In his new ad, the dull-eyed governor looks into the camera and tries to feign concern for women who are seeking abortion. It’s a contrast with the way he glibly dismissed imposing the ultrasound requirement last year, telling reporters, "I don't have any problem with ultrasound. I think most people think ultrasounds are just fine.”
Of course Walker’s not talking about a medically necessary, jelly-on-the-belly ultrasound that most people welcome to either diagnose disease or check on the health of a fetus. This is at best a coercive procedure and at worst, requires a transvaginal wand, in the case of early-term abortion. (Perhaps Walker should mandate that men seeking Viagra undergo a trans-urethral ultrasound.)
Then there’s clueless Thom Tillis, who presided over a radical retrenchment of women’s rights and voting rights in North Carolina’s GOP legislature. Now Tillis, like Gardner, is hyping his support for over-the-counter access to birth control pills and dissembling over his opposition to pay equity legislation. At their first debate, Tillis tried mansplaining the issue to Hagan, and that backfired. So on Tuesday he claimed he believed women deserved “the same pay as men,” but insisted “let’s enforce the laws on the books.” He called pay equity legislation a “campaign gimmick.”
Hagan shot back: "Speaker Tillis, I think you need to read reports. Women in North Carolina earn 82 cents on the dollar. I didn't raise my two daughters to think they were worth 82 cents on the dollar."
Gardner has also tried to back away from a personhood measure on the Colorado ballot, insisting he doesn’t support limits on contraception. Yet he’s still listed as a co-sponsor of House Personhood legislation. His explanation: It’s "simply a statement that I support life." And he wouldn’t promise not to support Senate Personhood legislation if he defeats Udall.
It’s easy to see why Walker, Gardner and Tillis are trying to run from their records: They are being crushed by their opponents among women voters. But will it work? So far, Gardner’s contraception ads haven’t done the trick. “We’ve polled pretty extensively about whether people are persuaded by these ads, and Gardner has a problem,” a Democratic operative told Bloomberg’s Joshua Green. “The problem is that 40 percent of women don’t believe him.”
All three races are going to come down to turnout, and the the men may yet pull it out, in a midterm year when Democrats are less likely to vote than Republicans. Still, the fact that all three feel they have to cover up their awful women’s rights records show they’re worried. But whether cool, creepy or clueless, these misleading last minute pitches aren’t likely to fool women.