This weekend Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was the only male Republican presidential candidate to make a campaign stop at the National Federation of Republican Women’s annual conference in Phoenix.
“I’ve got to tell you, the women in here, this is a room of patriots,” Cruz told the crowd, according to the Washington Post. “This is a room of fighters. This is a room of women that stand up and win elections and are going to save this country.”
Post reporter Katie Zezima points out one problem with this appeal — that Cruz is stridently anti-abortion, a position that led the Republican party into trouble in 2012. Indeed, should Cruz become the nominee he (along with nearly every one of his rivals for the nomination) would be the most anti-abortion Republican candidate in history.
The idea that Cruz is trying to appeal to women is absurd on more than just the abortion front. After all, the gender breakdown on abortion politics is pretty much split down the middle, and people also have more complicated feelings about the issue than polls lead us to believe. Cruz has actually staked out a number of positions that women voters might find beyond the pale.
Many members of Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, are scrambling to figure out a way to stave off a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding. Defunding the women’s health organization by any means necessary is a plan that Ted Cruz unequivocally supports.
A new CNN poll found that Cruz’s plan to shut down the government has little support, with about 65 percent of the public saying the organization should continue to receive federal funding. This could be in part because the organization itself is quite popular and claims to have served one in five American women at some point during their lifetimes.
As actress Ellen Page highlighted at the Iowa state fair last month, Cruz has been opposed to any legal recognition of same-sex marriage. He even rushed to a rally for Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue licenses to same-sex couples due to her shaky legal reasoning that it violated her religious beliefs. Unfortunately, former Arkansas Gov. Huckabee (R) got there first and a staffer blocked Cruz from the photo op.
Women are generally far more supportive of LGBT rights than men, with Pew Research Center data showing 58 percent of women and 53 percent of men favor legal same-sex marriage.
There are few issues that Cruz has been more outspoken about than his opposition to the Affordable Care Act. He gave a multi-hour filibuster-style speech designed to delay a government funding vote that included funding for Obamacare. He also heavily encouraged members of the House of Representatives who are credited with causing government shutdown over Obamacare in 2013.
But women are arguably some of the biggest beneficiaries of the health care law. The law contained requirements that insurance companies could no longer charge co-pays for the preventative care that women need, like birth control, and banned insurance companies charging women higher rates. Women are also slightly more likely to have a favorable view of the Affordable Care Act, with 45 percent viewing the law favorably and 40 percent viewing it unfavorably.
To be sure, there is one area where Cruz could find support with women — his opposition to the anti-nuclear proliferation deal with Iran, which women say Congress should reject by nearly 10 points. However, women tend to be more wary of the use of nuclear power, and women in general tend to favor diplomacy over military strength as means of securing peace.
The fact that Cruz lags on the policies women care about won’t stop the fourth-place contender from trying to appeal to women, even though the Republican party hasn’t won the women’s vote since 1988 and the gender gap between parties only seems to be widening.
Still, perhaps Cruz gets credit for just showing up. Aside from his only female rival, former HP executive Carly Fiorina, other candidates didn’t show. They just sent their wives or staffers to the conference in Phoenix last weekend instead.
“There is no force in all of politics like Republican women,” he told the crowd.