Dismissing reproductive rights and other women's issues as a "distraction" from the economy was a strategic mistake by Republicans that could have cost them the election, conservative pundits and women's groups charged on Wednesday.
President Obama's win on Tuesday was aided by the massive 18-point gender gap between supporters of him and Mitt Romney. Women's strong support for Obama, particularly in the swing states, comes following tireless efforts by his campaign to discuss reproductive rights issues, equal pay and health care coverage for women.
Mitt Romney and the Republicans, by contrast, repeatedly tried to change the subject away from women's issues, particularly abortion and birth control, and even veered toward mocking those issues at times.
"The Republicans' insistence in unilaterally disarming on social issues means that only the left is discussing abortion and marriage," said Penny Nance, president of the conservative Christian group Concerned Women for America. "Refusing to discuss this important issue left their candidates unprepared to intelligently engage on life."
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List, said polling showed that if the Romney campaign and its backers had been willing to attack Obama on his support for abortion rights and Planned Parenthood and his contraception mandate, it "could have changed the outcome of the election."
“What was presented as discipline by the Romney campaign by staying on one message -- the economy -– was a strategic error that resulted in a winning margin of pro-life votes being left on the table," she said in a statement after the election.
Voters sent a clear message to socially conservative Republicans on Tuesday, electing Democrats over candidates with extreme anti-abortion positions even in states where Romney won comfortably. Republican candidates who recently made headlines with their controversial rape comments, including Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) and Richard Mourdock (R-Ind.), lost their races, despite previously leading in the polls.
And women's strong support for Obama saved him in a few key swing states, like Ohio, where men and independents swung toward Romney, according to CNN.
If Republicans hope to win in 2016, they are going to have to figure out how to reach out to women, conservative pundit Peggy Noonan said on Fox News Wednesday.
"You cannot dodge, I think, the reality that the Republican Party has a woman problem," she said. "Men are supportive, women are not. You've got to look at it. And I suspect as the party gets itself together, it will start to think, 'Well, maybe as we consider that, we better have some women in the room.'"