Kos vs. Me

by Ramesh Ponnuru

The Daily Kos guy has a post attacking my Bloomberg View column. He starts by quoting my remark that a problem with the Romney campaign’s strategy is that it assumes that “the women’s vote” exists. His comeback: “It has. Since 1920.” Maybe he’s straining for rhetorical effect. I find it hard to entertain the alternative, that he thinks that I am denying that women can and do vote. That would mean he cannot read at a high-school level. Obviously what I am denying is the wisdom of speaking and thinking of “the women’s vote” in the singular.

Next Kos quotes me as follows:

The evidence that Romney is lagging in the polls because voters are upset about a “war on women” — rather than because of a bruisingly negative primary campaign or the recovering economy — is pretty thin. But Republicans are responding not just to the polls but to the persistent mythology of the gender gap.

His comeback this time? “Persistent mythology?” he writes. He then cites some polls that have Obama leading Romney by double digits among women, and adds, “That’s some serious myth-making by the nation’s polling industrial complex.” Again, one wonders what Kos is trying to do here. He can’t be so stupid as to think that I am saying that Obama’s lead in the polls among women is a myth. What I in fact treat as mythical is spelled out in the following paragraphs of the article Kos is attacking, though not accurately summarizing. It’s a myth, for example, that the difference in voting behavior between men and women is a grave problem for Republicans. It’s a myth, as well, that the issues stereotypically treated as “women’s issues” are what drive the gender gap.

He concludes by saying that the polls prove that it’s those “women’s issues” that have caused Obama to open a big lead among women. They prove no such thing, and the very passage of mine that he quotes includes links that explain why they don’t. For example, Kos leans on a USA Today poll that shows that women under age 50 in swing states moved away from Romney between mid-February and early April. He treats that as evidence that the contraceptive-mandate issue hurt Romney badly. But the same poll showed that most respondents did not know Romney’s position on the issue; and asked to rank issues in order of importance, both men and women rated it lowest. As I said: pretty thin.

Kos’s grasp of these topics, then, appears as reliable as his ability to spell my name.