CHARLOTTE, NC — President Obama "believes that women are more than capable of making our own choices about our bodies and our health care,” First Lady Michelle Obama said during her Tuesday speech to the Democratic National Convention. "That's what my husband stands for."
It was a continuation of a consistent message from women at all levels the Democratic party: This election is about the government’s right to control your body. Earlier that day, just a few blocks away from where Mrs. Obama spoke, Gov. Nikki Haley made the Republican pitch.
“Let me tell you about women. Women are extremely smart,” the first female governor of South Carolina said. “They care about a lot more than contraception.”
Those two arguments — that the 2012 presidential election is about women’s rights, and that women’s rights are a distraction from economic factors that affect American families — have been made again and again by supporters at every level in Charlotte this week and in Tampa last week. Much has been said about 2012 being a grand debate over the federal budget, but in a 50-50 nation, the narrative that wins this fight may win the White House.
Local representatives weighed in on the issues, and while one Democratic state senator voiced opinions about health care, Republicans focused on jobs.
Delegates in Lockstep
Women delegates in Charlotte and Tampa, who are more often than not leaders in their hometowns, are consistent in their messaging. “This war on women is absolutely phony,” said RNC delegate from Connecticut Pat Longo last week. “It’s strictly to distract from issues of debt, deficit, and spending.”
“Wisconsin women need to realize that we need to worry about what's going on for our kids and our grandkids,” said Patty Reiman,
On the streets of Uptown Charlotte, female physiology is front and center: Planned Parenthood supporters wear pink shirts everywhere, and Austin delegate Heather Ross went so far as to walk the streets of Charlotte with a pink felt “uterus” stitched into her ballcap.
Asked what American women need from this election, delegate Grace Carrington from Coral Springs, Md. said, “Let us make our decisions for our bodies. Period.”
Miami Democratic Delegate Bonnie Weiner stressed that the most important issue for her was that, “We could have our most basic and important rights taken from us.”
The Diminishing Number of Undecided Women
ABC News released a poll on Tuesday suggesting Republicans were cutting into Obama’s advantage among women. Michelle Obama's speech, stressing that "at the end of the day, my most important title is still 'mom-in-chief'" was no doubt designed to make up some of that lost ground.
But regardless of the affect of last night's speech, the army of businesswomen, moms and sisters on either side may continue to sway voters back and forth for the next 60 days.
As voting women pick sides, the best remaining opportunities may lie with women like Connecticut Representative Terrie Wood. “I firmly believe social issues should be left to the individual and not to the government to decide,” Wood told a Patch editor in Tampa. “I find a lot of women in our community register as Democrats because they’re pro-choice and they support gay rights. Well, most of us [conservative women in Connecticut] do too.”
Wood is a Republican delegate and a firm Romney supporter. The question is how women who share her conflicted feelings will vote.
Local Women Respond to Election Issues
After First Lady Michelle Obama addressed delegates at the Democratic convention Tuesday in North Carolina, her comments stirred women on both sides of the aisle.
New Lenox resident Patty Deiters, the president of the newly created , argued against sentiments expressed by Obama when she talked about jobs.
"What this election is about is jobs and the security of one's family in hard pressed economic times," Deiters said. "Above all women want to make sure that their family is housed fed and clothed.
"Without a job none of that is possible."
(R-New Lenox) of the 81st District, which includes all or part of Frankfort, New Lenox, Mokena, Joliet, Homer Glen, Homer Township, Orland Park and Tinley Park, reflected on the issues in this campaign. First and foremost, she said, this election is about "our children and our grandchildren."
"Future generations are looking at a lifestyle that is less than what their parents and grandparents had," she said. "I'm very, very concerned. Women are at the heart of this campaign. What we're looking at is the inability of Americans" to accomplish what they once could. "We have to make the future better for our kids."
In her role as Assistant House Republican Leader, she said, "I want people to succeed. So many people are out of work and others are struggling to pay bills. Small business is at the heart of this country, and they can't catch a break; the families then can't catch a break."
The tax burdens are too high on small business, according to Kosel. "Every 10 minutes, Illinois loses a business" to the surrounding states where the tax burdens are less. Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana and Missouri all have lower tax rates on business than Illinois. "It's an out-migration of business."
Kosel said Illinois can accomplish that by:
- Workers Compensation Reform: Business can't afford the high rates that plague Illinois.
- Tort Reform: There has to be a limit set on law suits. Small physician practices need relief from excessive suits, and businesses are getting overly tapped for slips and falls. Frivolous nuisance suites have to be stymied.
- Regulations in regard to permits: The process of getting a permit has to be reduced. It can take up to two years to get a permit.
In the nutshell, "we have to stop spending more money than we make. And we have to get pensions under control."
Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights) of the 40th Senate District, which after redistricting will cover parts of New Lenox and Frankfort, discussed women's health care decisions.
Speaking from the floor of the Democratic Convention Sept. 5, she said, "I think women are able to do this (raise a family, care for their elderly family members and prosper in their careers.)" Since that is the case, Hutchinson said, women should also have the right to make decisions about their health care.
"I can make my own personal decisions about my body without government interference," she said. "It's a matter of personal responsibility."
Obama's genuine discussion of family struggles and ill-health stirred Hutchinson to reflect on situations that concern elder care and children's health for her family as well as for all families in America. Serious budget cuts to accessible health care and insurance could be devastating, she said.
"No parent should have to wonder whether or not their child receives necessary surgery or a procedure," she said. "We're here to help each other."
Ann Piasecki contributed to the story.
What do you think are the key issues in this election?