Missouri’s Republican Senate candidate, Todd Akin, stated in a recent interview that women who are victims of “legitimate rape” cannot become pregnant from the incident, igniting a firestorm of controversy that has spilled over into the presidential race. Akin went on to elaborate that “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” a position that is overwhelmingly opposed by reproductive health experts.
The remark came on Aug. 19 as Akin elaborated upon his stance on abortion, which he supports only when the mother’s life is at risk; he opposes abortion in all other cases, including rape and incest. This view is shared by Paul Ryan, who was selected to be Mitt Romney’s running mate on the Republican ticket over the summer.
Ryan publicly expressed his disappointment and announced that he believes Akin should drop out of the Missouri race. However, Democrats are seizing the opportunity to associate Romney’s vice presidential pick with the universally unpopular statement made by Akin. The Obama Administration pressed hard on the issue and questioned Ryan’s true ethics. “As a Republican leader in the House, Paul Ryan worked with Todd Akin to try to narrow the definition of rape and outlaw abortion even for rape victims. He may hope that American women never learn about this record, but they deserve an answer to why he wanted to redefine rape and remove protections for rape victims,” said Lis Smith, spokesperson for the Democratic Party, alluding to a proposal supported by both Akin and Ryan to legally redefine rape as “forcible rape.”
Akin’s comments could prove to be detrimental to Republicans across the country as their party tries to lure female voters, who already favor Democrats by a hefty margin. According to a recent poll by the Washington Post, 53 percent of registered female voters are backing Obama, as opposed to 39 percent for Mitt Romney. This can be attributed largely to a string of issues relating to women’s health, including a measure in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that gives women more access to contraception.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act-commonly called Obamacare-was itself under the spotlight recently after the Supreme Court ruled it constitutional. Obama has cited the benefits for women in the new health care law, which include preventive care in addition to free contraception. Obama also spoke of signing a bill setting new rules for pay equity lawsuits. It may be hard for Romney to regain popularity from female voters, especially considering his opposition to the Paycheck Fairness Act and willingness to do away with the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, both of which were designed to end economic discrimination against women. Romney also stated that he would end federal aid to Planned Parenthood to help the economy, part of his plan to cut federal spending by 20 percent. The fall election has proven one thing for sure: women’s rights have become a crucial factor in who will be in office next year.
Due to the large population of registered Latino voters in the USA, another issue that is expected to influence November’s election is immigration. Telemundo recently released a poll showing Obama with a 35 point lead over Romney among Latinos. Romney’s unpopularity with Latinos can be attributed to his plan to build upon on the strict Arizona and Alabama immigration laws. Another factor for Romney’s unpopularity amongst Latinos is his solution to immigration: self-deportation. This is a policy that puts strict laws in effect that require immigrants to leave the country after failing to obtain a job or an education because they do not have proper identification.
While Romney is still struggling to connect with Hispanics, Obama has always been a favorite amongst minority groups. He has become especially favorable with Latinos since June, when he issued an executive order that granted legal status to immigrants who have lived in the US for at least 5 years and have graduated high school–a policy that will allow 800,000 immigrants the chance for a permit that will allow them to continue living and working in the U.S.
Perhaps Romney’s boldest move this election has been selecting Ryan as his running mate. The Congressman from Wisconsin is best known for his sweeping budget proposal, which would transform Medicare into a voucher program, reduce the corporate tax rate, include sweeping cuts to discretionary spending and aim to significantly lower the national debt. Pundits believe that Romney is seeking to shift the focus towards the national debt and the economy, where his experience as a skilled businessman lends him credibility with voters.
It widely believed that the election will be won by whichever candidate can prove that he is the one most able to solve America’s economic woes. And although the economy has steadily improved under Obama the pace has been glacial at best, and unemployment rate remains above 8 percent; no incumbent has been reelected with the unemployment rate above 7.2 percent since the Great Depression.
UTSA students have taken a huge interest in the presidential elections. “I believe Obama will win the election because of minority support ranging from race, sexuality and gender. Further, the Republican Party has managed to support individuals who have been making outlandish comments that have been angering the general public,” says sociology junior Tia Robertson. Romney’s view on gay rights is one that opposes same sex marriages; however, he has said that it should be left up to the state, and that hospital visitation rights are appropriate but “other rights are not.” He has also decided not to restore the ban on openly gay military members.
Robertson believes that Obama will help her as a student as well. “Obama is good for me as a student. First, I know once I get out of college I won’t be forced to pay back my loans that I can’t afford for myself and my future family.” Roberson continues, “Second, as a woman who supports herself through college, Obama granting things like birth control has significantly reduced my health concerns. Third, if Romney got elected, he’d say due to my family’s income, I wouldn’t deserve to be in college,” says Robertson.
Ryan’s budget proposal would have a huge effect on college students; Democrats claim it would cut $115 billion from the Department of Education and cost 1 million students Pell Grants. Romney has discussed that the federal government should have less of an impact on education and that it should be left to the states.
Some students believe that the presidential race will favor Romney. “I think he strikes a chord with a disaffected voter population, particularly with his gun control plans and because he bridges Republican ideals and Tea Party ideology,” says history graduate Michael Ely. Obama has called for a ban on assault rifles while Romney has said that stricter gun laws infringe on the Second Amendment. Following the shooting inside a Colorado theater earlier this summer, Romney has revised his stance, stating that the laws on gun enforcement already in place need to be enforced, not restricted. “I believe that the Second Amendment is the right course to preserve and defend and don’t believe that new laws are going to make a difference in this type of tragedy,” Romney said.
At FiveThirtyEight-a New York Times blog that aggregates nationwide polling data-Obama is anticipated to win the popular vote by 50.6 percent to Romney’s 48.2 percent. However, positive bumps are common in presidential politics, and it is just as common for them to fade, sometimes quickly.