WASHINGTON WATCH ROUNDTABLE: The Battle For Women Voters (VIDEO) | Roland Martin Reports

WASHINGTON WATCH ROUNDTABLE: The Battle For Women Voters (VIDEO)

The debates are over; and in just nine, short days it’s up to the voters to decide. This race is extremely tight. Mitt Romney has been doing slightly better in the national polls, but the President is slightly ahead in battleground states like Nevada, as well as Wisconsin; also Ohio. But you also have to look at Virginia, Wisconsin, North Carolina. There are about nine states that will determine this election.

One of the most important voting groups in this race in those states: women – namely, White women. The President has had a huge advantage with women, but that advantage has shrunk, and both candidates are actively wooing female voters.

So, what are the issues women need to consider before casting their ballots? We’re talking about that and other issues with our “Washington Watch” roundtable: Sonya Ross, race, ethnicity and demographics editor for the Associated Press; Dr. Julianne Malveaux, “Essence” magazine contributor and founder of Last Word Productions; Robert Traynham, MSNBC contributor and Washington bureau chief for the Comcast Network; and Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation.

MR. MARTIN:  Welcome to “Washington Watch.”

President Barack Obama was the clear debate winner again this week.  Mitt Romney appeared to be in way over his head on foreign policy and agreed with the President so often it sounded like he was endorsing him.  It was such a stunning turnaround from his vicious criticisms of the President’s foreign policy on the campaign trail, that Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” couldn’t resist creating a mash-up of the surprising love fest.

[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP.]

MR. MITT ROMNEY:  I congratulate him on – on taking out Osama bin Laden.

Drones are being used in drone strikes, and I support that entirely and feel the President was right.

I want to underscore the – the same point the President made.

I – I felt the same as the President did, and I supported his –

[“THE DAILY SHOW” AUDIENCE REACTS WITH LAUGHTER.]

MR. ROMNEY:  — his action there.

It’s absolutely the right thing to do to have crippling sanctions.

I believe that Assad must go.

PRES. BARACK OBAMA:  Assad has to go.

MR. ROMNEY:  I don’t want to have our military involved in – in Syria.

PRES. OBAMA:  For us to get more entangled militarily in Syria is a serious step.

MR. ROMNEY:  So, the right course for us is working through our partners –

PRES. OBAMA:  — in consultation with our partners –

MR. ROMNEY:  — to identify responsible parties within Syria –

[CHUCKLING FROM “THE DAILY SHOW” AUDIENCE.]

PRES. OBAMA:  — mobilizing the moderate forces –

MR. ROMNEY:  — organize them.

PRES. OBAMA:  — helping the opposition organize –

MR. ROMNEY:  We do need to make sure –

PRES. OBAMA:  — making absolutely certain –

MR. ROMNEY:  — that they don’t have arms –

[MORE LAUGHTER FROM “THE DAILY SHOW AUDIENCE.”]

PRES. OBAMA:  — arms in –

MR. ROMNEY:  — in the wrong hands –

PRES. OBAMA:  — folks who eventually could turn them against us.

MR. ROMNEY:  — to hurt us down the road.

PRES. OBAMA AND MR. ROMNEY (IN UNISON):  Thank you.

[END OF VIDEO CLIP.]

MR. MARTIN:  My goodness!  Why didn’t we simply have a one-on-one between President Obama and Bob Schieffer, if all Mitt Romney was going to do was agree all night?

Well, anyway, the debate’s over; and in just nine, short days it’s up to the voters to decide.  And this race is extremely tight.  Mitt Romney has been doing slightly better in the national polls, but the President is slightly ahead in battleground states like Nevada, as well as Wisconsin; also Ohio.  But you also have to look at Virginia, Wisconsin, North Carolina.  I mean you have about nine states or so left that really will determine this election.

But one of the most important voting groups in this race in those states:  women – namely, White women.  The President has had a huge advantage with women, but that advantage has shrunk, and both candidates are actively wooing fe- — female voters.

So, what are the issues women need to consider before casting their ballots?  We’re talking about that and other issues with our “Washington Watch” roundtable:  Sonya Ross, race, ethnicity and demographics editor for the Associated Press; Dr. Julianne Malveaux, “Essence” magazine contributor and founder of Last Word Productions; Robert Traynham, MSNBC contributor and Washington bureau chief for the Comcast Network; and Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation.

All right, folks.  Let’s get right into it.

The President, for the longest, had a – what – 15-, 18-point lead among women.  First debate takes place.  Women go, “Hey, Mitt Romney’s not a bad guy.”  All of a sudden, it has shrunk.

What do you – what do you make of that?  And is that going to be a – you know, the issue, frankly, in these battleground states:  who is able to do better with women?  Because men right now really are trending towards Mitt Romney.

MS. SONYA ROSS:  Women are cagey voters.  Any analyst will tell you that.  Any researcher will tell you that.  And you could talk to women voters all day, but you won’t really know what women voters will do until it’s actually time to vote.  And that is what’s making women voters so appealing in this climate.

MR. MARTIN:  Is – is it also a question, though, of women voters are saying, “Look, I like Mitt Romney on a couple of issues.  I like President Obama on a couple of issues, and I’d rather decide really what stands out for me the most when it’s time to actually place that vote”?

DR. JULIANNE MALVEAUX:  I think that, at the end of the day, many of these women who trend to Obama – I think many of them are very concerned about economic issues, and that’s where Mr. Romney may get a wedge.

MR. MARTIN:  Now, here’s what’s weird –

MS. ROSS:  Yes.

MR. MARTIN:  — Melanie and Robert.  When we look at the polling data, Romney leads President Obama when it comes to who can best handle the economy.  Who will fight for the middle class?  Obama beats Romney, and it sort of seems those two are – are at odds, if you will.

OFF CAMERA:  Um-hum.

MR. ROBERT TRAYNHAM:  I’mma let the women go first.  I’m –

MS. MELANIE CAMPBELL:  I thank –

MR. TRAYNHAM:  — purposely being quiet.

MR. MARTIN:  [Chuckles.]

MS. CAMPBELL:  — I thank you.  I’ll take you up on that.  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  Shocker!

[LAUGHTER.]

MS. CAMPBELL:  You hear of this term called the “rising American electorate” – of women.  I think there’s – also you have to p- — peel out what – what – what the numbers look like for women.  So, if you look at single women, you look at younger women, the issues that impact them – everyone – the economy impacts everybody, but for younger women, I think the trend is – if you break that out – is not pro-Obama.  I mean pro – pro-Romney.  It’s more pro-Obama, because you’re talking about the kinds of issues – if you are in the child-rearing years, still –

MR. MARTIN:  Um-hum?

MS. CAMPBELL:  — you can’t miss what’s happening when it comes to the issues of reproductive choice in this country, whether – you know, wherever you stand on that issue, and the kind of – of attacks on women that we have seen over this past year and-a-half.  If you look at [the] 2010 election, as well, you had a – a – because of the economy overall, women went more Republican.  You know, that’s one of the things you don’t hear a whole lot about.  I’m talking about overall.  Not Black women, but White women.

MR. MARTIN:  Robert.

MS. CAMPBELL:  So, I think it’s going to be about the age of women and where they’re going to go –

MR. MARTIN:  Okay.

MS. CAMPBELL:  — and I think younger women – one more point is that the younger women have a larger swath of that vote.  And I –

MR. MARTIN:  Okay.

MS. CAMPBELL:  — think that’s where Obama needs to go.

MR. TRAYNHAM:  I think all these women are correct.  However, there’s a couple of caveats here.  Number one, women are not all monolithic.  When you peel back that onion and take a look at the different levels, there are blue-collar women.  There’re white-collar women.  There are suburban women.  There’re working moms and so forth.

To your point, Roland, working women, blue-collar women typically are empathetic – or – or, they identify more with President Obama because they feel like he’s much more empathetic.  He understands their concerns.  However, when you peel back that onion a little bit more, according to the crosstabs:  “Does he share my same values?” “Does he understand exactly what I’m going through?” most working women are saying – or, blue-collar women are saying, “I don’t know.”

And when you listen to Governor Romney, they’re saying, “You know what?  I’m not exactly sure where he stands on Israel,” or whatever the case may be, “but it seems like he may have an answer.  He very well may have an answer” –

MR. MARTIN:  Two – two things.  We saw GDP come out this week.  Better than expected, gr- — growing at 2 percent.  We also saw housing starts also better than expected.  The Friday before the election – next Friday – we’re going to see a jobs report come out, and we’ll see what happens with that.  Will unemployment rates stay steady?  Go up?  Go down?

But also, the Obama campaign continues to drive home the issue of choice.  We saw, with the controversial comments this week of – of Richard Mourdock there in Indiana – and the Obama campaign was very quick to hit Mitt Romney’s campaign on this issue.  Check this out.

[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP.]

MR. ROMNEY:  I’m supporting Richard Mourdock for Senate.

SCREEN SHOT:  Here’s what Mourdock said the very next day.

MR. RICHARD MOURDOCK:  — even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.

MR. ROMNEY:  This is a man who I want to see in Washington.

[END OF VIDEO CLIP.]

MR. MARTIN:  Can that really move these numbers with – in these states where it’s razor-thin?  Do you believe the choice issue will still be that powerful in the final days of the campaign?

MS. ROSS:  Where women voters are concerned –

MR. MARTIN:  Yes.

MS. ROSS:  — do you mean?  See, this is the thing with women voters.  Women voters sat back in the cut, waited for the issues to circle around to things that – that women care about and then said, “Talk to me about this issue.”  So, they divorced themselves, so to speak, from Obama or Romney one way or the other and said, “Where are you coming down on abortion?”  “Where are you coming down on equal pay or fair pay for women who work just as hard as men?”  “Where are you coming down on education?”  “Where are you coming down on the bread-and-butter issues I’m concerned about?”  This was very well encapsulated by the question of the woman in the audience at the town hall debate, who said, you know, “I’m not thrilled with the economy” –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MS. ROSS:  — “right now, but I also have not forgotten what the economy was like before.  Why should I support you, Governor Romney and President Obama?  What can you tell me you will do for me?”

MR. TRAYNHAM:  Roland, here’s the unfortunate truth.  We don’t know yet.  We won’t know probably until Wednesday or Thursday after the election to see if – if, in fact, that ad actually had some teeth.

But here’s another silver lining in that.  And I hate to say that in the – in the context of rape, because rape is absolutely despicable and horrible.  There are some Republican women that actually may agree with that – that – those comments.  And so, thus, in the process, when you take a look at the battleground states – Ohio, Virginia and so forth – with Republican women – very conservative, very moralistic women – that actually very well may help Governor Romney.  We simply don’t know yet.

DR. MALVEAUX:  You know, but that’s ridiculous.  At some level, what you have is men who have attempted to control women’s bodies.  Whether you’re Democratic or Republican, I think that women are repulsed by this notion that “God’s will” is that you should be raped and that when you’re raped –

MR. TRAYNHAM:  But that’s not what he –

DR. MALVEAUX:  — the out- —

MR. TRAYNHAM:  — said, though.

DR. MALVEAUX:  — no –

OFF CAMERA:  Yeah.

DR. MALVEAUX:  — no.  Let’s be clear.  And the outcome is that it’s okay.  We had Aiken in Missouri.  Now we’ve had this other man, and these are Republican men who could’ve shut their mouths up.

MR. TRAYNHAM:  They should’ve.

DR. MALVEAUX:  And that’s what they should have done – whatever they were thinking.  What they have done is shown their contempt for women.

MR. MARTIN:  Folks, hold tight one –

MS. ROSS:  And that –

MR. MARTIN:  — second.  I[’ve] got to go to a break.