As we reported last month, Planned Parenthood's political arm had an incredibly effective election; nearly 100 percent of its spending went towards races that ended with pro-choice politicians in power. How did they do it?
The Washington Post's Sarah Kliff asked some strategists how Planned Parenthood pulled off such a victory this year. No, no Todd Akin voodoo doll was necessary.
1. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, especially if your enemies consistently say dumb shit about women.
Planned Parenthood's team found that what worked best was using Romney's own words against him, and there were oh-so-many greatest hits to choose from, from "I'll cut off funding for Planned Parenthood. We're going to get rid of that" to that time he said he'd be "delighted" to overturn Roe v. Wade. Later, when Romney tried to weather the backlash by pretending he luvved the ladies so much so that he had binders full of 'em, no one believed him.
Abortion access wasn't the most pressing issue for women voters this election season: reproductive health was. Planned Parenthood realized that early in 2012, when conservative politicians and religious groups flipped out about the Obamacare mandate that required employers to cover contraception. Analysts saw that national interest in women's issues also spiked during the Rush Limbaugh-Sandra Fluke feud, Todd Akin "legitmate rape" debacle, and Richard Mourdock's announcement that God occasionally endorses sexual assault. (Phew, what a year. My uterus hurts just thinking about it.) Even voters who were unsure how they felt about abortion were pissed off that a startling number of old guys running for office apparently had no idea how birth control worked or what a vagina was.
Most women didn't realize that Mittens was running around the country joyfully and openly proclaiming his opposition to reproductive rights. "Women did not know about Romney's position on women's health," said Molly O'Rourke of Democratic polling firm Hart Research, who worked with Planned Parenthood. "To the extent they made a guess, there were a lot of wrong assumptions. They knew him as a businessman and not particularly strong on these issues."
Planned Parenthood targeted 1 million female voters who were likely to share Obama's views on women's issues, and then relentlessly bugged them between June to November:
If you were among the women in that group who lived in Virginia, you received five pieces of direct mail and dozens of phone calls. You would get visits from canvassers, who might hand you a folded-up brochure, styled to look like a pocketbook, that told you Mitt Romney could cost you $407,000 over your lifetime by not supporting no co-pay birth control or equal pay legislation.
Excessive? Hey, it worked!
The group spent about $15 million this year, way way more than the $4 million it spent in 2008. Campaigns and outside groups spent $39 million on abortion-related ads this cycle overall, but Democrats in particular spared no expense, airing over six times as many spots on abortion as Republicans, according to one media tracking firm.
According to Kliff (and the election results), that's all it took:
Post-election polling suggests that Planned Parenthood's messages did break through. By the end the campaign season, more voters knew that Romney did not support no co-pay contraceptives than those who were aware that he opposed legal abortion. That comes from a post-election survey conducted by Hart Research and Chesapeake Bay Consulting, a Republican polling firm.
Justice is sweet — and, sometimes, pretty simple, too.