A longtime Arlington County Board member shakes up Virginia politics by announcing plans to step away. Uncertainty clouds the future for the chief of one of Maryland's treasured public school systems. And the field of candidates narrows in D.C.'s special elections looming in the spring.
“Women’s issues” have played a prominent role in the presidential campaign so far, surprising many activists on both sides of the aisle. During the first night of the Democratic National Convention, speakers frequently referenced what they say is a Republican “war on women.” Kojo explores how hot-button debates over abortion, contraception and pay equity will play out in the days and months ahead.
- Christina Bellantoni Politics Editor, PBS News Hour
- Barbara Mikulski U.S. Senator (D-Md.)
- Angela Alsobrooks Maryland State's Attorney, Prince George's County
- Lilly Ledbetter Activist for Pay Equity; Plaintiff, Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co (U.S. Supreme Court, 2007)
- Cynthia Neff Board Member, Women's Strike Force; Virginia Delegate to the Democratic National Convention
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 in Washington and from the studios of the Groundcrew in Charlotte, N.C., welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. We're here for the Democratic National Convention. Later in the broadcast, Charlotte, Wall Street South, growing city, is the hype all it's cracked up to be, or is the reality different? But first, Democrats are calling it a war on women by conservatives.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIThey point to dozens of initiatives at the state and federal level on hot-button issues that affect women, including abortion, equal pay and reproductive health. The war on women is shaping up to be a major theme of this week here in Charlotte, at the Democratic National Convention, with speaker after speaker illustrating what Democrats say is a stark choice in this election. And while common wisdom has it that the economy is the top issue for most voters, social issues are getting women around the country fired up.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIThey say there's no distinction that their issues are also economic. Last night, our producer, Ingalisa Schrobsdorff, caught up with the most senior woman in the U.S. Senate, Barbara Mikulski, from Maryland. She talked about a number of women's issues at the policy level, as well as what she calls the mac-and-cheese issues affecting women and families every day, including the one at the top of her agenda this year: pay equity. Let's hear what she had to say.
SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKIIt's almost 50 years since Lyndon Johnson passed the very first civil rights act. For 40 years, the corporations and business have fought us, from the Chamber of Commerce going down. And people like Lilly Ledbetter, who worked for BFGoodrich, found out late in her career that she'd been denied it. It went all the way to the Supreme Court, and the court threw it out. They said she didn't report it.
SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKIWell, Congress went to work. The Senate went to work. The Republicans filibustered it. But I said we're going to fight. We're going to square our shoulders, put our lipstick on, and we did win that vote. And now, we have made a significant advancement because you see for us being a woman, every issue is a woman's issue. We want a stronger economy, a safer country. We know how to be frugal. The Democratic women have a checklist for change. We just need more women in the Senate, and we need to overcome the Republican parliamentary blockade against us.
MS. INGALISA SCHROBSDORFFDo you see the significance that the first piece of legislation President Obama signed was the Lily Ledbetter Act?
MIKULSKIPresident Obama, when he was Sen. Barack Obama campaigning for the president, he promised the women of America he would fight for equal pay for equal work, to fulfill the dream of that civil rights act. And he made sure, working with those in the Senate and in the House, to make this his first piece of legislation. I carried the fight on the Senate floor, beat off nine amendments, but we kept our promise in the Senate. And Sen. and President Obama had our back 100 percent. I was proud to stand with him that day when he kept his promise to American women.
SCHROBSDORFFDo you think that equal pay is an issue that resonates beyond women?
MIKULSKIWhen I travel around Maryland and the country, I talk to many fathers. Many men do jobs they hate, so their children could have the jobs they love. And their fathers are so proud of their daughters, and they know that if they're paying equal tuition for equal graduation, those girls, then women, should get equal pay for equal work. I find that dads are fantastic supporters.
SCHROBSDORFFWhat issues do you think will motivate women this election?
MIKULSKIWell, for -- we women, we work on the macro issues, of course, a stronger economy and a safer country. We also work -- make sure when the macaroni-and-cheese issues. So we want to have schools that work. We want to have daycare that's safe, affordable and available. We want to ease the burden of caring for an elderly parent.
MIKULSKIThat's why we fight so hard for Medicare, not to turn it into a coupon and a promise. We don't want them to privatize Social Security where they have a guaranteed gamble instead of a guaranteed benefit. And, of course, we want to fight for jobs in the United States of America.
SCHROBSDORFFYou're instrumental in adding the preventive health amendment to the Affordable Care Act. Can you talk a little about that and why that's important to women?
MIKULSKIWell, all 12 Democratic women in the Senate joined with President Obama to improve health care, to expand access for 42 million people that didn't have it. But along the way, we saw that there were very little money for preventive health services. And just about that time, they were getting ready to take our mammograms away from us. Well, we squared our shoulders one more time and took to the floor, again, having the support of many great guys in the Senate.
MIKULSKIAnd we worked very hard for preventive health care benefit, and that's when we went to the Institute of Medicine on what that should be. So it's early detection and screening. It's full reproductive services, and, yes, it does include birth control. So we fought very hard for that. But who said what the benefits should be? It was the Institute of Medicine. We just want to make sure we had preventive services not only for women but for the men in our lives as well.
SCHROBSDORFFYou mentioned reproductive services. That, along with abortion and other issues, have come up this year as we know, and this is part of the discussion on the war on women. Does this surprise you that we are discussing these things in 2012?
MIKULSKIWell, I'm very surprised that we are because it's so dated. It's so anachronistic. For America to move ahead in the new century, we need to out-educate and out-innovate the world. And women now are in school, getting most of the college degrees, even advanced degrees. Women are prime movers in the economy of their own family and therefore the country. And so then to keep picking fights in terms of our personal lives, we find it disappointing.
MIKULSKIBut you know what? The American women know that the reason there's a gender gap is because there's an agenda gap. And American women know that what Ryan and Romney Republicans are offering are essentially the same old stale promises and will, again, disenfranchise women.
NNAMDIMaryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski talking with our producer Ingalisa Schrobsdorff at the DNC last night. You heard Sen. Mikulski talk about equal pay and the Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act. Lilly Ledbetter spoke last night at the Democratic National Convention here in Charlotte. She now joins us in studio. Lilly Ledbetter, thank you so much for joining us.
MS. LILLY LEDBETTERThank you. It's a delight for me to be here.
NNAMDISen. Mikulski talked about equal pay being not just a women's issue. Presumably, you agree with that.
LEDBETTERI do. It's a family issue. In fact, if you listen to every thing that Sen. Mikulski stated, everything falls into a family category. And equal pay for equal work, it can be a single woman. She still has a family. She has a mother and a father and maybe brothers and sisters. And it is a family issue. If women are not paid equally and equably what they're entitled to under the law, it not only affects their everyday lives. It affects their families. It affects the future and their retirement. And once you get behind, you can never catch up.
NNAMDICan you remind us what the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act says, and why it was necessary?
LEDBETTERIt was necessary because the Supreme Court in my case did not say that I wasn't discriminated against. They said my problem was I waited too long to file my charge. But that was not true. The precedent in previous cases had always been that law had always been based on paycheck accrual, and that's what the Ledbetter bill is. If you are still getting a check, that starts a new accounting period, and you learn that you're being discriminated against for whatever reason, your color, your sex, whatever the issue is, you can file a charge within 180 days in any state in this country.
LEDBETTERAnd that's the way it was previously, but the Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito, when they took their seats on that Supreme Court, they chose not to do what they said in confirmation hearings. They chose to ignore precedent and make a new law, and that's basically what they did when they ruled in the Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber. They changed the law. They changed it to read: You -- I would have had to file a charge within the first six months.
LEDBETTERAnd what that would mean to an individual that that person would have to hire in, in the first six months of employment, if that's the first discriminatory paycheck and oftentimes it is, women and men, they get less money than women do simply because of their color or their sex. And they get less money, and that means they would have to file an equal employment charge within the first six months. And I don't think many new hires want to jeopardize a job. That doesn't even make sense, and that's not the way the original law was written.
NNAMDIIn case you're just joining us, we're coming to you from Charlotte, N.C., where the Democratic National Convention is taking place, and we're talking with Lilly Ledbetter, who addressed that convention last night. We're taking your calls at 800-433-8850. You can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or simply go to our website if you have questions or comments for Lilly Ledbetter or on the general issue of what the party is calling the war on women. 800-433-8850.
NNAMDIYour journey, more than a decade of lawsuits leading to a Supreme Court decision and then a federal law bearing your name, has thrust you into the spotlight. But last night may have just been the biggest speech of your life. Was it?
LEDBETTERI think so. I think so. That was a very big speech. That was the biggest five minutes, I think, of my life.
NNAMDIHow did you prepare for it?
LEDBETTERWell, this is the way I look at this, Kojo, when the president signed that bill carrying my name and he signed his name to it, that gave me a lot of awesome responsibility not to me anymore but to the other women and the families of this nation. And that's the way I prepared. I wanted to deliver so that they would get the full gist of what it's like with unequal pay.
NNAMDIWhen you were standing underneath the glare of those lights, could you actually see the people in the audience?
LEDBETTERI could. I could see and feel the emotion. And I got caught up in it, and you know it. When you're on the podium, they tell you, you cannot stop for applause or standing ovations. You've got to keep going, and that was so hard.
NNAMDIThe original Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963 as part of the Civil Rights Act, and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009, yet, as you pointed out last night, women still earn just 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. How is that possible?
LEDBETTERIt makes you wonder. It makes you wonder about what the employers and the large corporations and large employers have done. They've been able to slide this in the cracks somewhere and not get caught and not adhering to federal rules and guidelines. And the corporation that I worked for, they had government contracts, huge government contracts. From the day I went to work there until the day I walked out in retirement, that they told us if we discuss our pay, we wouldn't have a job.
LEDBETTERBut I would -- I felt sure working for a national organization that they would have their feet held to the fire, so to speak, on federal regulations, but they were not. But there is closer observance of that today, and a lot of the states that I travel to today -- New Mexico is one -- they have laws that if you have contracts in that state, you will adhere to federal and state laws to keep those contracts. And that's the way it should be because that protects the workers.
NNAMDILilly Ledbetter, thank you so much for joining us.
LEDBETTERThank you. Thank you for having me.
NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue this conversation about what's taking place at this convention on women's issues with Christina Bellantoni of the "PBS NewsHour" and Cynthia Neff of the Women's Strike Force in Virginia. You can still call us at 800-433-8850 or send email to email@example.com. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back as we continue this conversation on what the Democratic National Committee and delegates of this convention are calling the war on women. If you have comments or questions -- do you think there's a war on women? Or is it just rhetoric that distracts from jobs and the economy as Republicans are saying? 800-433-8850. Joining me in studio now is Christina Bellantoni. She is a politics editor at "PBS NewsHour." Christina, good to see you again.
MS. CHRISTINA BELLANTONIThanks for having me.
NNAMDIAlso with us is Cynthia Neff. Cynthia Neff is a board member with Women's Strike Force, a political action committee founded in Virginia this year to support candidates with progressive views on women's issues. Cynthia Neff, thank you joining us.
MS. CYNTHIA NEFFYeah, it's a pleasure.
NNAMDIChristina, how did you see this war-on-women theme playing in the first night of speeches at the Democratic National Convention?
BELLANTONIWell, it was very orchestrated. The campaign has put together a program that allows them to tick off different elements of either the president's record or things that they want to attack the Republicans on in every single speech. So you saw governor -- former Gov. Strickland of Ohio talk about the auto bailout. But many of the female speakers made a point to say the same line. And even the first lady Michelle Obama said it.
BELLANTONIThis is the first time she's really talked about this, saying women have a right to make their reproductive rights decisions. That is no accident. They're attempting to paint the Republicans as unfriendly to women. Obviously, female voters are very important. There is a distinction. I think it's always important to point out that married women -- and single women tend to vote differently -- and so a lot of the campaigns are focusing on married women 'cause that's sort of the swing vote.
BELLANTONIYounger, single women tend to vote for Democrats. But it played out in speech after speech. Particularly striking was Nancy Pelosi, House minority leader, former speaker of the House, showcasing all of these female Democrats onstage, making a point of this is our party. And you saw all these women in these brightly colored suits trying to showcase that. And I will also point out that it is no accident the first law the president signed was that Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
BELLANTONIThat bill had already been passed by Congress before he even took office, but it was waiting for him on his desk. The Obama administration wanted to be able to campaign on that all four years.
NNAMDIWell, the words work and women were used a lot last night at the convention. But who's counting? Well, The New York Times is saying that the words work and women were two of the most used terms in speeches last night after The New York Times reviewed the speeches. Cynthia, you're from Virginia, and one of the issues affecting women in particular has been a major debate about personhood. Can you talk a little bit about that?
NEFFWell, the personhood bill was introduced by the Virginia legislators in 2012. It'll come back. This is not something that's going away. We've seen it in other states as well. But they -- but, really, the Women's Strike Force has come about because there was a line that we drew in the sand when we said, you know, there has been a continual legislative assault on women. And the personhood bill, which would give a fetus, at conception, constitutional rights, was just going a bit too far. Likewise, those mandatory ultrasounds prior to an abortion was just going a bit too far.
NEFFSo one day, a small group of women said, that's it. You know, we've crossed that line in the sand, and we have to do something. We have to fight back. Women cannot assume that the Virginia legislature is going to do the right thing for women. And for us, we really do see it as a war. You know, we are all about saying that, you know, we are going to go after anybody who voted for those two pieces of legislation. We have to change.
NEFFVirginia has 17 percent of our legislature. When you talk about the agenda gap versus the gender gap, you know, when you only have women representing 17 percent of the state, when they actually represent 50 percent, you don't have an equal voice there. And over and over and over, we see men trying to legislate what happens to women's bodies. At the same time, which I found very ironic, that the legislature was considering whether really maybe the TSA pat-downs are a bit too invasive.
NEFFYou know, they got real comfortable about transvaginal ultrasounds that we didn't find any male legislators in Virginia who can actually say the word vaginal. They all kind of referred to it as trans-v and with, you know, women's bodies and body parts. So we've just decided enough is enough, and we have to really work hard to try to get more people who understand that women should have the right to rule their own bodies.
NNAMDIChristina, some commentators, especially Republicans, are saying that it's clear why Democrats would rather focus on culture wars rather than the economy. But many of these debates over social issues were, in fact, sparked by legislation offered by Republicans.
BELLANTONIYeah. The Republicans certainly gave the Democrats plenty of ammunition. You know, Virginia is a prime battleground example of that. And, you know, the very interesting point is that the Democrats were completely ready for this, but what everybody was a little surprised by was that intense activism that you really haven't seen in almost a decade coming from women who hadn't been involved, whether that was young women.
BELLANTONIYou know, these are -- and Howard Dean always likes to point out -- I've interviewed him several times on this issue -- that a lot these state legislators flipped hands in that 2010 wave when the Republicans won back control of the House of Representatives. At state houses, elections have very striking consequences, and that's something that this is playing out in this issue whether you're labeling contraception as an abortion issue. And these are sensitive issues, but young women are really getting up in arms.
BELLANTONIThey're certainly paying more attention, and they're using social media to further that message to donate to organizations. I've talked to activists in all the battleground states saying that they've seen their, you know, groups that focus on reproductive rights issues swell in membership, swell in activism, swell in volunteer hours and fundraising, all of that. And so it's a sleeping giant in a way, but the Republicans like to point out that, of course, that women are suffering under the economy a little bit more than men. But those are numbers you can manipulate a little bit.
BELLANTONIBut again, as you point out, the Republicans have given plenty of ammunition. You know, just see Congressman Todd Akin, who's the Senate nominee in Missouri, I mean. And there's a fascinating story actually on BuzzFeed last night that Phyllis Schlafly, conservative activist, really made her mark on some of these social conservative issues, has been privately urging Akin to get out of that race. Someone who's actually fairly far to the right on this issue has been saying, this is a problem for us.
NNAMDIThis election, as you pointed out, is really about a handful of battleground or swing states. How do you think this focus on women's issues or the so-called culture war will play with the undecided voters in those states? First you, Christina, and then Cynthia.
BELLANTONIWell, it's a dangerous issue for the Democrats as well. I'll, again, point to Virginia. Look at Sen. Creigh Deeds, the state senator there who was the nominee for the Democrats to run against now Gov. Bob McDonnell. He lost by a lot, and one of the reasons he lost is because voters felt inundated by these ads. He focused on a thesis that then-senator -- then-delegate -- or no, he was attorney general -- then Atty. Gen. Bob McDonnell had written many, many years ago in college about women and these social-cultural issues.
BELLANTONISo they felt there was an over-focusing on it, and particularly when the economy is front and center, is this what you really want to be talking about? So people have to be very careful and tread a line. And particularly in Missouri that I was just mentioning, there are a lot of evangelical voters. The main highway that goes across the state -- I think it's 44 -- there are still billboards, you know, anti-abortion billboards along that road. And this is a pretty conservative state on this issue. Todd Akin could very much still win that seat and unseats Claire McCaskill.
NNAMDIHow do you think this is going to play with independent voters in Virginia, Cynthia Neff?
NEFFI think that for Virginia, that these women's issues are really front and center. They will -- women will make the difference. You know, kind of I'll bet my paycheck that women will make the difference in Virginia. What we're seeing with the Women's Strike Force -- first of all, we're bipartisan. We have Republican members because this is women's issues. They're seeing this as beyond politics. At the end of the day when women start to lose rights, it doesn't matter whether they have an R or D after their names.
NEFFSo we have really captured a lot of independents, you know, some Republicans and lots of Democrats. And what we're seeing is people who have said enough is enough. We've just gone too far, and we're not going to take it anymore. And I think when they hear things like Akin, you know, talking about legitimate rape, that just adds to it.
NEFFOne of the things we've seen is young women really coming to the table and saying, you know, these things have existed: the ability to get an abortion, the ability to go to Planned Parenthood for reproductive rights and for birth control, you know, the ability to compete for jobs. You know, I remember when it was still legal to not give a woman a job. My first job when I was 18, I was turned down because I was a woman, and that was the reason they gave.
NEFFSo people like me talking to younger women, it reminds them, you know, we fought for this once, and it looks like we're going to have to fight for it again. And I think women in Virginia are ready to fight.
NNAMDIWell, here's Margaret in Alexandria, Va. Margaret, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MARGARETThanks, Kojo. The reason that women have to keep fighting for it over and over and over again and struggle to pass laws and the laws are disregarded, as Lilly Ledbetter just pointed out, is the very basic issue. And the only person who's really articulated it publicly and not covered it up by calling these things social issues is Antonin Scalia, who said quite straightforwardly, there's nothing in the U.S. Constitution to prohibit sex discrimination, and he meant, of course, against women.
MARGARETIf you compare with the gay rights movement, you see that the discrimination that is perceived to be against men is moving forward under an equal protection, 14th Amendment claim. The women have no 14th Amendment.
MARGARETIt is -- they have not been included, and that is still being largely not discussed in those terms in how it explains the fact that these laws simply are not honored where women are concerned because sex discrimination is not unconstitutional and women "have no rights." And all the rights that are talked about, including just in this recent discussion, are really illusory for that reason.
NNAMDIMargaret, thank you very much for your call. Christina Bellantoni, care to comment?
BELLANTONISure. Well, it is something that -- it's the sleeping giant I was referring to a minute ago. Women -- these are health decisions. And in a lot of cases -- you know, Planned Parenthood is an example. When funding is cut off for them, you'll hear a lot of people that are against cutting off their funding bring out people that are saying, this is the only place I can get my child tested for TB, or this is the only place I can pick up birth control pills. It's very different from, this is where you're going to have an abortion.
BELLANTONIBut it's also -- again, it's a careful line that you have to walk politically. These are very charged issues. People are incredibly sensitive about it, and religion does play into it. There are a lot of Catholics on both sides of the issue that go into this now, and, of course, this played out in one of the major policy fights that we're talking about in this election with the healthcare reform bill the president signed into law.
BELLANTONIAnd the Democrats are really trying to make the point that this is a bill that will help women and their families and help them make those medical decisions. But the Republicans are trying to say that you're funding a lot of this that aren't necessarily what they agree with. So, yeah, it is very careful line. But when it's threatened, that's when women start to get active.
NNAMDICynthia Neff, women around the country seemed to be pretty fired up about these issues. Could the war-on-women theme here, you think, inspire more women to run for office? After all, the women only hold 17 percent of the seats in Congress currently.
NEFFAbsolutely. One of the comments, you know, caught last night as a delegate from Virginia sitting on the floor, you know, you're really kind of caught and inspired in all the speeches that went on for five hours. But it was really great. But one of the things that I saw this morning on my Facebook wall where I've been posting pictures is somebody said, I can't wait till the time when the women are up there talking.
NEFFNot talking about what a great husband they have who's running for office, that when women are standing up there, you know, talking about what they're going to do for change. And it just kind of slaps you in the face and says, of course, you know, women should be standing up there in equal numbers talking about the kind of, you know, policies that they want to bring to our country. I don't think there's women anywhere that don't believe that government would function a lot differently with more women.
NNAMDIMaryland State's attorney for Prince George's County is Angela Alsobrooks. Last night, intrepid producer Ingalisa Schrobsdorff tracked her down at the Democratic National Convention. And Alsobrooks, as a local prosecutor, offered her take on what women want as voters and as citizens. Here's a clip.
MS. ANGELA ALSOBROOKSWhat women care about, I believe, is the safety of their families. They want to know that their children will be safe. They want to know that their children will be educated no matter their zip code. I know that for many women, you know, it's a terrible thing to feel that you must be in a lottery, for example, for your child to be able to go to a quality school. That's an issue for women. We want to know that we can make decisions about our own bodies and especially when decisions are made in Congress that we're not excluded from those conversations or excluded from those hearings.
SCHROBSDORFFWomen are underrepresented in elected office, and black women are particularly underrepresented. What do you think would help bring more women into politics and into running for elected office?
ALSOBROOKSYou know, I think seeing more women helps in showing young girls early on that the possibility exists. And so I try really hard to get to the schools to talk to young children but to talk especially to young women and say everything is possible. I think there's a great concern among women, quite honestly, about juggling. How do we juggle our responsibilities as mothers? How do you juggle your responsibilities as wives and also serve your community? And I think being able to see it done in a balanced way is encouraging to women.
SCHROBSDORFFHow did you decide to get into elected politics? It's a challenge -- you're a single mom, I understand that.
ALSOBROOKSI'm a single mother, and it is a very big challenge for me. I tell you, for example, this week, my daughter is starting second grade with -- and I'm here. I think she understands the importance of the work that we're doing here. In fact, she's been calling me with her own ideas about how do we combat Mitt -- and she calls it Rot-ney. But it does present, you know, great challenges, I think, for all of us.
ALSOBROOKSBut, you know what? I think the sacrifices are worth it. I got involved in this because I simply couldn't sit on the sidelines and watch the way that, you know, to have my child feel insecure about growing up in the world, to know the challenge that she's facing. And so for me, there was a choice to talk about it or to do something about it. And I'm hoping that as she grows up, she'll have that model to look at, that the things you care about, you must work to change no matter the sacrifice is.
ALSOBROOKSAnd, like I said, I work very hard as a mother. That is my first priority. I know that my daughter understands that, but my community is important as well and other people's children. I have to make sure that I have to be concerned not only about my family but other families as well.
NNAMDIPrince George's County state's attorney Angel Alsobrooks. Before we get out of this segment, both Christina and Cynthia, clearly, the GOP intended to address this war on women issue last week during the Republican National Convention in Tampa. They had a lineup of speakers that included several prominent women. Do you think, A, Republicans were successful pushing back on this, and B, are moderate conservative women missing in these debates?
BELLANTONIWe tried to have a moderate's panel on the "PBS NewsHour," and it was difficult to find and one of the only women who was -- not just women but moderate who's willing to speak was Sen. Olympia Snowe, who's obviously retiring from Maine. And we ended up not being able to book her. She didn't come to the convention. Sen. Susan Collins wasn't available. This is a difficult line for women.
BELLANTONIYou see them sort of try to distance themselves. But you are seeing them showcase women like Cathy McMorris Rodgers, congresswoman from Washington State. She's in party leadership now in the House of Representatives. Gov. Nikki Haley from South Carolina is actually here in Charlotte today, and we'll be having her on the "NewsHour" tonight. She's being presented as the Democratic rebuttal.
BELLANTONISen. Kelly Ayotte from New Hampshire. These are not only female faces, they are young faces. They are mothers. They are able to go out there and take that message out. But when you ask them the question, they turn the corner every time and talk about the economy. They're not really addressing what the Republicans put in that platform.
BELLANTONIThey're not really addressing that there is an enormous gender gap there. And when you ask the Romney campaign about this -- and I have done so -- and I try to point this out, they say, well, he's listening to women who are just concerned about the kitchen table issues. This is not what they're concerned about. But the polls show that some of them are concerned about it. In a lot of cases, it's the one issue preventing them from voting for a Republican for president.
NNAMDICynthia Neff, the Women's Strike Force is, as you pointed out, a nonpartisan organization. Have you had any success attracting moderate conservative women?
NEFFI think I'd have to echo some of Christine's, you know, concerns about actually trying to find moderates. I don't think that the GOP campaign and convention last year really -- last week really -- I wish it was last year -- did a great job of dealing with that. And what we're seeing is that a lot of women just really feel that the Republican Party has lost its soul to this ultraconservative, misogynistic, you know, anti-women bent.
NEFFAnd so we're not seeing lots of women that are moderate on this issue. We're seeing lots of women who are excited. And even though they would naturally perhaps vote GOP, I don't think they're going to this time.
NNAMDICynthia Neff is a board member with Women's Strike Force. It's a political action committee founded in Virginia this year to support candidates with progressive views on women's issues. Cynthia Neff, thank you for joining us.
NEFFIt's been a pleasure. Thank you.
NNAMDIChristina Bellantoni is a politics editor at "PBS NewsHour." Christina, once again, thank you for joining us.
BELLANTONIThank you. I love the show.
NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. When we come back, spotlight on Charlotte. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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