Eyeing 2014, Democrats Take Aim at Gender Gap Again

Image: voting in Fresno, Calif.
Booths are full as voters turn out to place their votes at Engine House no. 5, on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010 in Fresno, Calif. (AP Photo/The Fresno Bee, Mark Crosse) Mark Crosse / The Fresno Bee via AP

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Why the gender gap is so important for Democrats

If you want to know why the Obama White House today is holding another round of events focused on women and equal pay, it’s this important reminder: Female voters have been the difference between Democrats winning and losing elections. In 2012, President Obama won female voters by 11 points (55%-44%), while Mitt Romney won among men by just seven points (52%-45%). And last November, Democrat Terry McAuliffe won the female vote by nine points (51%-42%) in his victorious gubernatorial campaign. By contrast, Republicans had the narrow edge among women in the 2010 House vote (51%-49%), and Republican Bob McDonnell won female voters by eight points (54%-46%) in his blowout gubernatorial win in 2009. Here’s another example: In 2010, Democrats narrowly won Colorado’s Senate race by winning the female vote by a whopping 17 points (56%-39%), but it lost Missouri’s Senate race by losing the female vote by five points (50%-45%). Bottom line: The secret to Democratic electoral success is directly through female voters. They know it, and they plan to try to expand that potential advantage via any issue they can (from the economy and health care to contraception). Today, the focus is on the pay gap. And it’s not just women voters who are going to be the difference between Democrats keeping or losing control of the Senate. Democrats’ chances here will run through female candidates -- whether it’s incumbents like Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), or challengers like Alison Grimes in Kentucky and Michelle Nunn in Georgia.

Today’s White House programming and the GOP’s counter-programming

At 11:45 am ET from the White House, Obama will mark Equal Pay Day by announcing his signing of an executive order banning federal contractors for retaliating against employees who discuss their pay, USA Today writes. (The logic is that such retaliation makes it more difficult for females to make as much male colleagues performing the same job.) He also will sign a presidential memo instructing Labor Secretary Tom Perez to require federal contractors to disclose payment data (like by sex and race) to the federal government. Republicans are countering Obama’s event by pointing out a study from the conservative American Enterprise Institute that female White House staffers make, on average, 88 cents for every dollar a male White House staffer makes (though that’s better than the national average of 77 cents to the dollar, but still an embarrassing talking point for the White House). Republicans also have issued a memo arguing that today’s White House event is a stunt to distract from other issues. “[Democrats] have no credible ideas to ensure women have the opportunity to secure high-paying jobs, and the Democrat Senate has refused to pass any of the 40 jobs bills the Republican House has sent them. ObamaCare is deeply unpopular, and they don’t want to talk about how policy cancellations are hurting women, or about how women are losing access to the doctors of their choice, or about how it’s meant smaller paychecks for working women (and men).” As for the issue itself, what’s the bigger problem -- the pay gap or the opportunity gap when it comes to women having a fair shot at the same job?

Hayden vs. DiFi: Speaking about gender politics…

In the coming weeks, one of the more explosive political issues will be the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA interrogation techniques during the Bush administration. Was torture committed? If so, who was responsible? But also explosive was how former Bush CIA head Michael Hayden described Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) work to release the report. “That sense that the motivation for the report may show deep emotional feeling on the part of [Feinstein], but I don’t think it leads you to an objective report,” Hayden told Fox on Sunday. Democrats pounced on Hayden’s “emotional” comment. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called it condescending, NBC’s Kasie Hunt reported. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) added, per NBCs Kelly O’Donnell: "Gen. Hayden's suggestion that Chairman Feinstein was motivated by 'emotion' rather than a focus on the facts is simply outrageous.” And what’s bizarre here is that Feinstein is hardly a dove on national security issues; no one initially was a bigger defender of the NSA surveillance program than Feinstein. But the Hayden-vs.-DiFi split reveals a food fight between the old guard of the CIA (you can add current CIA Director Brennan here) and those trying to reform the agency.

A reminder: The Russia-Ukraine story still isn’t resolved

Turning to foreign affairs, it’s worth pointing out that the Russia-Ukraine story is far from resolved. The Washington Post: “Police began removing the pro-Russian demonstrators occupying eastern Ukrainian government buildings early Tuesday after a tense night of confrontation that officials here accused Moscow of provoking to seek a pretext for invasion. Protesters were cleared from the regional administration in Kharkiv, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said, although they remained entrenched Tuesday in similar government offices in Donetsk, where protesters erected a barricade of tires and barbed wire.” The Russians are warning of a civil war in Ukraine, which begs the question: How can an OUTSIDE country threaten a civil war? The minute they become involved, is it really an internal war in Ukraine? The White House continues to accuse Russia of making the internal situation worse.

Rise of the Oligarchs

Last week, the NBC News Political Unit launched a new series -- Rise of the Oligarchs -- observing that wealthy Americans are playing a more powerful role in U.S. politics than at any other time in the last several decades. On Monday, we profiled four such oligarchs representing all parts of the political spectrum: Sheldon Adelson, Charles and David Koch, Michael Bloomberg, and Tom Steyer. From the article: “If you care about politics, it’s a good time to be a billionaire. American elections have never exactly been an bargain-basement business, but there’s no question that more money is flowing from wealthy donors’ pockets into campaign coffers and television ads than ever before. Since the seminal 2010 Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court, political spending from outside groups – many of them either created or bankrolled by American billionaires – has skyrocketed from $193 million in 2004 and $338 million in 2008 to a whopping $1 billion in 2012.” Our next installment of the series will note this important reminder when it comes to money in politics: Money doesn’t always buy you victory.

Your kiss is on my list

As we’ve previously noted, Congress hasn’t exactly had a great time in the headlines lately. Last week, Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN) showed up at the wrong hearing, and Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) bemoaned the salaries of members of Congress (which stand at $174,000). Well, yesterday sex -- or at least a passionate kiss -- was added to the mix. Per NBC’s Frank Thorp, freshman Rep. Vance McAllister (R-LA) “apologized Monday after a newspaper published a video it said showed him kissing an aide late last year… McAllister, a freshman member who is married and has five children, made the apology in a statement that did not directly address the specifics of the newspaper's report. ‘Trust is something I know has to be earned whether your [sic] a husband, a father, or a congressman,’ he said. ‘I promise to do everything I can to earn back the trust of everyone I've disappointed.’”

Profiling Lindsey Graham’s upcoming primary

Lastly, don’t miss Kasie Hunt’s profile (along with Ben Mayer) of Sen. Lindsey Graham’s fight for re-election with his primary coming up in June. “There are plenty of conservatives … who want to fire Graham. A half-dozen people paraded through this office to put their names on the ballot to challenge him in the June Republican primary. It's enough to keep Graham's support in polls below 50 percent of primary voters, the threshold he needs to hit if he's to avoid a potentially dangerous and unpredictable runoff two weeks later. So why, two months before the primary and contrary to all expectations, does Graham seem like a reasonably safe bet to win? ‘I don't just want to win this election,’ Graham told the 50 or so people who've gathered to watch him open up his Charleston campaign office. ‘Yes, I do, but I want to do more than that. I want to make a statement about who we are in South Carolina. We're conservative, but we're not mad about it.’”

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