02/22/2012 05:37 pm ET Updated Apr 23, 2012

What Do Women Want (in a Candidate)? Don't Ask Men!

The War on Women is burning on a few fronts (even including a War on Girls), with some Republicans charging up the hill and others wisely quitting and running. But a Quinnipiac Poll released today shows men more likely to think the GOP candidates understand the problems and needs of women. Women, however, know better.

When asked if the President "understands the needs and problems of women," men and women agree he does, with no gender gap (63 percent of men, 65 percent of women). But there is real disagreement about the GOP field's ability to understand women. Half of men say Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum understand women's problems (48 percent for each), but among women only about a third agree (34 percent Romney, 36 percent Santorum). And while even men feel Newt Gingrich doesn't understand women's needs and problems (48 percent does not understand), women are more sure (55 percent does not understand).

Despite all this, it's probably still a bit early to tell how voters are reacting to Santorum's recent anti-woman bender, even in the primary. In the same Quinnipiac poll, he has a slightly larger lead over Romney among Republican men. And as this New York Times blog story notes, Arizona polling shows Santorum losing ground with Republican women. Some (but not all) recent Michigan polling shows a similar gender gap opening up, with women moving away from Santorum.

It's important to remember voters are going to move a bit slower than political junkies. And women in particular may be less engaged. In the Quinnipiac poll, Republican women are more likely than men to be undecided in their primary, and overall, women are less likely than men to know enough about Santorum to have an impression (independents are even less familiar with him).

While women haven't yet enlisted in the culture war raging on cable news all day, those who have can already sense the President is almost twice as likely to understand their needs and problems. The next step is to convince men what it means to understand women's problems, and why that's important.