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Why Romney and Ryan are going down

ElectionsFeminismMitt RomneyRepublican PartyPaul Ryan

Unemployment is still above 8 percent, job gains aren't even keeping up with population growth, the economy is barely moving forward. And yet, according to most polls, the Romney-Ryanticket is falling further and further behind. How can this be?

Because Republicans are failing the central test of electability. Instead of putting together the largest possible coalition of voters, they're relying largely on one slice of America -- middle-aged white men -- and alienating just about everyone else.

Start with Hispanics, whose electoral heft keeps growing as they become an ever-larger portion of the electorate. Hispanics now favor President Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by a larger margin than they did six months ago.

Why? In February's Republican primary debate, Mr. Romney dubbed Arizona's controversial immigration policy, which authorized police to demand proof of citizenship from anyone who looks Hispanic, a "model law" for the rest of the nation.

Mr. Romney then attacked GOP rival Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, for supporting in-state tuition at the University of Texas for children of undocumented immigrants. And Mr. Romney advocates what he calls "self-deportation" -- making life so difficult for undocumented immigrants and their families that they choose to leave.

As if all this weren't enough, the GOP has been pushing voter ID laws all over America, whose obvious aim is to intimidate Hispanic voters so they won't come to the polls. But they may be having the opposite effect -- emboldening the vast majority of ethnic Hispanics, who are American citizens, to vote in even greater numbers and lend even more support to Mr. Obama and other Democrats.

Or consider women, whose political and economic impact in America continues to grow. (Women are fast becoming better educated than men and the major breadwinners in American homes.) According to polls, the political gender gap is widening.

Why? It's not just GOP senatorial candidate Todd Akin's call to ban all abortions even in the case of "legitimate rape" (because he believes women's bodies somehow reject violent sperm). The GOP platform itself seeks to bar all abortions, with no exception for rape or incest. And on several occasions, Paul Ryan has voted in favor of exactly such legislation.

Meanwhile, Republican legislators in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Idaho and Alabama have pushed bills requiring women seeking abortions to undergo invasive vaginal ultrasound tests. All told, more than 400 Republican bills that attack women's reproductive rights are pending in state legislatures.

Republicans have repeatedly voted against legislation giving women equal pay for the same work as men. Republicans in Wisconsin have even repealed a law designed to prevent employers from discriminating against women.

Or consider students, a significant and growing electoral force, who voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Obama in 2008. What are Republicans doing to woo them back?

Paul Ryan's budget plan -- approved by almost every House Republican and enthusiastically endorsed by Mitt Romney -- would have allowed rates on student loans to double, adding an average of $1,000 a year to student debt loads. (Under mounting political pressure, House Republicans came up with just enough money to keep the loan program going safely past Election Day by raiding a fund established for preventive care in the new health care act.)

Now Mr. Romney wants to hand the federal student loan program over to the banks, which will charge even more. Earlier this year he argued that subsidized student loans were bad because they encouraged colleges to raise tuition, and suggested students ask their families for money.

Republicans have even managed to antagonize seniors by seeking to turn Medicare into vouchers whose value won't keep up with rising health-care costs, and seeking to cut $800 billion out of Medicaid (which many seniors rely on for nursing home care).

And, of course, they've come out against equal marriage rights for gay couples.

Mr. Romney, Mr. Ryan and the GOP don't seem to know how to satisfy their middle-aged white male base without at the same time turning off everyone who's not white, male, straight or middle-aged. Unfortunately for Messrs. Romney and Ryan, the people they're turning off are the majority.

Robert B. Reich, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California and former U.S. Secretary of Labor, is the author of "Beyond Outrage: What has gone wrong with our economy and our democracy, and how to fix it," a Knopf release now out in paperback.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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ElectionsFeminismMitt RomneyRepublican PartyPaul Ryan
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