Can Rick Santorum Fix His “Woman” Problem?

If Rick Santorum wants women voters to support his presidential candidacy, he might want to stop talking about women. Soon.

He’s clearly doing well with conservative Christian voters around the country, as his wins in Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado show. But Santorum can’t win the big contest in November without women. And in light of some of his comments in the last week or so, even some Republican women are having a little problem with him.

A variety of his quotes have called his views on women into question, including whether women are emotionally capable of serving in the military, his comment in his book It Takes a Family, that “radical feminists” are undermining the family by suggesting that women can only be happy if they have jobs outside the home, his thought that birth control has nothing to do with women’s rights, and, of course, his musings last year that single mothers should get married so they’ll stop being Democrats and vote Republican. Not surprisingly, he’s backing away from some those remarks, but are these the ideas of a candidate who really wants to win the women’s vote in 2012?

It’s no surprise that Democratic women aren’t huge fans of the former Pennsylvania Senator, but some Republican women are beginning to question whether they’re really all that into him as a candidate. At least one group has already started selling T-shirts emblazoned with the message, “Another Working Mother Against Rick Santorum.” But one of his daughters isn’t worried. Santorum’s 20-year-old daughter Elizabeth, a college student, said in a recent interview:

“My Dad has been a champion for women. He helped to get thousands of single moms back on their feet by reforming welfare in the 90s. In fighting for life in the abortion debates, he emphasized the value and dignity of every human life. In 2006, he authored and passed the Iran Freedom and Support Act, which was not only visionary as it foresaw the danger of a nuclear Iran, but it also provided support to the revolutionary movement in Iran which hoped to overthrow the government, one that is extremely oppressive towards women.  On a more personal level, he has always encouraged me to reach my potential and has always supported my decisions in what I want to do with my life.”

So can Santorum turn the ship around when it comes to women? Or will he stick to his conservative guns and go full steam ahead with his ideas about the roles of women in “traditional” families? His chief rival Mitt Romney is gaining some much needed momentum with his wins in the Maine caucuses, as well as the straw poll conducted at the Conservative Action Political Conference last week, so Santorum might want to reconsider how many women voters he might be alienating with his long-running views on “traditional” women’s roles.

As the mother of a daughter, there’s one thing I know for sure that Santorum should watch out for – the day when his daughters announce they no longer agree with his view of what jobs, positions or roles are appropriate ones for women. Because as almost all parents know, our kids have their own ideas about what their futures are going to look like.

A version of this post was originally written for iVillage, where I’ll be the 2012 Election Editor and Chief Contributor.

Image via Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.

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6 Responses to “Can Rick Santorum Fix His “Woman” Problem?”

  1. April Says:

    I’m a single mom with no desire to get married. He doesn’t want me, and I don’t want him.

  2. Alison Crockett Says:

    I think Santorum’s daughter is being very supportive, but these things don’t specifically support women. Traditional means a lot of different things now and traditional is not always the best thing. But it not always the worst either.

  3. deb Says:

    “but are these the ideas of a candidate who really wants to win the women’s vote in 2012?” No. they sound more like the ideas of a candidate who’d love to repeal the women’t vote if elected in 2012! What upsets me isn’t so much that he has these backwards ideas, it’s that he’s come this far with them. i wonder if his success more illustrates a shift towards these very conservative views or simply the complacency of voters who think he’s a “nice man” with good “family values” and have considered his candidacy in little more depth. I don’t know which scares me more.

  4. Mary G Says:

    I think the man has a logic problem, first off. A thing I always try to do is check what the person is saying against whom they are saying it to.
    Bad sentence, but I hope the idea gets through. Canada has had some politicians who trim their sails to the prevailing wind far too often. We can’t afford them and neither can you, in my opinion.

  5. PunditMom Says:

    Alison, obviously we all have to make our own choices. But that’s one of the things I find frightening about Santorum. He is OK with his family making choices that suit them, but then preaches to the rest of women that there should be no choices when it comes to birth control, motherhood, working for a living, etc. That’s where I think his “woman problem” comes in.

  6. Kim Says:

    With all of the issues currently facing our country, it will be an embarrassment (and a waste of time) for the Republican party to nominate RIck Santorum as our candidate. The fact that we are spending any time at all allowing him to explain and re-explain his positions regarding women’s “roles” demonstrates what a distraction he will be in terms of moving the debate forward with respect to the important and critical national issues of our time. If this level of focus on his “woman issue” is happening in the primary, imagine what the Dems will do to him in the general! Count me as another mom (of 4 – 2 girls 2 boys) against Rick Santorum. He is unelectable. Finally, PunditMom, I’m not so sure he is even “fine” with his own family making choices about what’s right for them. It is my understanding it his position that if his daughter became pregnant as a result of rape he would “strongly counsel” her to keep the baby. In a time of trauma such as that, do you believe his daughter would really be able to make her own choice following such “counsel”? I am not expecting to find a perfect candidate, but this one is truly flawed.


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