Bloomberg News

Priebus Says Gender Battle Fictional as Caterpillar War

April 05, 2012

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus before speaking at the Harris School of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago on Nov. 16, 2011. Photographer: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus before speaking at the Harris School of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago on Nov. 16, 2011. Photographer: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The leaders of the two political parties clashed over the role of gender in U.S. elections, with the Democrat saying her opponents have been “shockingly out of touch” on women’s issues and the Republican saying Democrats and the media have created a phony conflict.

“If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we’d have problems with caterpillars,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt” airing this weekend. “It’s a fiction.”

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and fellow party leaders have been hammering Republicans for supporting policies such as requiring women seeking abortions to get an ultrasound.

“The jury of women across America have ruled that the Republicans have been unbelievably extreme and out of touch and hyper-focused on cultural issues,” Wasserman Schultz said on “Political Capital.” That’s reflected in polling showing President Barack Obama beating former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney or other Republican presidential contenders by 18 points, she said. That gender gap showed up in a survey of swing states published April 2 by USA Today/Gallup.

Making the Case

While Priebus rejected the idea that Republicans are waging a war on women, he said they can combat the perception by focusing on their plans for the economy. He said they will be making their case “to women and everyone in this country.”

“This president hasn’t fulfilled his promises,” Priebus said. “We can do better in this country in regards to jobs and the economy.”

The two leaders, in separate interviews, also disagreed over the likely outcome in the Supreme Court challenge to Obama’s health-care law, with Wasserman-Schultz saying she is confident it will be upheld. The court heard three days of arguments last week over the constitutionality of the law, which requires Americans to buy health insurance.

Priebus said he expects the court to strike down the law, which he said would be “good for our country.” He criticized Obama’s recent suggestion that such a move would amount to “judicial activism.”

“It makes him look foolish as a lawyer,” Priebus said.

Money Advantage

Both party leaders suggested the other will have an advantage when it comes to fundraising. Priebus said he doesn’t know if Republicans would be able to take in as much as Obama, though he said the election will boil down to ideological issues, not the $1 billion likely to be raised by either side.

Wasserman Schultz focused on Obama’s ban on taking money from lobbyists and other special interests.

“President Obama’s campaign and the Democratic Party is fueled by people,” she said.

Both expect a tough race for the White House. Priebus said Romney’s three primary wins on April 3, including in Priebus’s home state of Wisconsin (BEESWI), represent a “big night” for the party.

“Obviously I have to be neutral, but I don’t have to avoid the facts,” he said. “It was a good night for Mitt Romney.”

Wasserman Schultz said she expects Romney to have trouble in the general election because he has shifted positions on issues. “None of his positions have any conviction because he’s willing to change them at the drop of a hat,” she said.

The chairwoman disagreed with her rival when it came to predictions for congressional races, saying she expected Democrats to hang onto the U.S. Senate, while Priebus said Republicans can claim the chamber for their party.

“We’ve got so many opportunities in the Senate,” he said, predicting that Republicans will take over Democratic seats in Ohio, Virginia, Florida, Wisconsin and Hawaii. That would give Republicans a majority, overturning the Democrats 53-47 control.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kristin Jensen in Washington at kjensen@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at jcummings21@bloomberg.net


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