Maureen Dowd / Mad Men, mad women and Meat Loaf: Romney appeals to some as a throwback to a different era

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WASHINGTON -- My sister, who was a secretary in the "Mad Men" era, is not worried that Republicans want to drag us back to being secretaries in the "Mad Men" era, as Tina Fey suggests.

Peggy is that most sought-after creature, an undecided woman who is a swing voter. She started as a blond concrete block in President Barack Obama's female firewall, but like many other women, is now pondering divorcing him for the man who looks and darn well talks like a '50s sitcom dad.

She does not believe the economy is getting better, and she trusts Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan not to do anything radical on women's reproductive rights or Medicare. She rejects my contention that Republicans in Congress would force them to; they see Mitt as an empty suit who would happily sign their far-right bills as long as he got Air Force One.

Our mom, a strict Catholic, taught us that it was immoral for a woman to be expected to carry a rapist's baby for nine months. (Don't even mention that rapists can assert parental rights in 31 states.)

But compassion is scant among the Puritan tribe of Republicans running now. As The Huffington Post reports, at least a dozen GOP Senate candidates oppose abortion for rape victims. The party platform calls for a constitutional amendment with no exceptions for rape, incest or the mother's life.

Rep. Todd Akin, running against Sen. Claire McCaskill in Missouri, differentiated between rape and "legitimate rape," implying that women would fake rape to get abortions, and suggested that women have a magic way not to get pregnant from rape.

Rep. Joe Walsh, running for re-election in Illinois, contended that "with advances in science and technology, 'health of the mother' has become a tool for abortions of any time or for any reason." Appalled obstetricians ticked off a litany of life-threatening situations.

Last week, Richard Mourdock, a Senate candidate in Indiana, said in a debate that "even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."

Mitt was certainly no profile in courage after Mr. Mourdock's comment blew up. He didn't take back his endorsement. He hid from reporters on his plane, and even dodged his usual custom of giving a reporter a birthday hug. Instead, he broadcast a birthday message to her on the intercom from the safety of first class.

It shouldn't be a surprise that many women support Mr. Romney, even though he has somersaulted on reproductive rights and his running mate sponsored a bill with Mr. Akin giving fertilized eggs the "legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood." Just as it shouldn't be surprising that Mr. Romney has the support of a huge swath of blue-collar white men, even though he's on a mission to make the 1 percent 100 percent able to indulge in car elevators.

Republicans are geniuses at getting people to vote against their own self-interest. Hispanics, however, do not seem inclined to vote against their self-interest on immigration laws, and Mr. Obama is counting on that to buoy him.

After the draining W. years -- when grumpy old men foolishly refought grumpy old wars -- Mr. Obama was going to sweep us to modernity.

But, as the Republican strategist Alex Castellanos notes, "He gets to Washington and calls Larry Summers." The only hope and change Mr. Obama could conjure this time was changing the period on his campaign slogan -- "Forward." -- to an exclamation point. Mr. Romney was right when he spoke at a rally in Iowa on Friday and said the president had made the election "about small, shiny objects."

Mitt may have peaked too soon. Now he is left counting on what advisers call "the silent majority." Mr. Obama's support among white voters has dived, and news reports call this the most racially polarized race since 1988. John Sununu, shockingly still a Romney surrogate, offered another flash of thinly veiled racism when he suggested that Colin Powell endorsed the president because they both were black, a comment he recanted. Sarah Palin said Mr. Obama was guilty of "shuck and jive" on Benghazi.

The high-minded Mr. Obama is trying to be hip, trash-talking Mitt in Rolling Stone, going on MTV to chitchat about hip-hop, joking with Jay Leno about his childhood in Kenya with Donald Trump. His campaign has a new ad with Lena Dunham, the creator of "Girls," slyly comparing your first vote to "your first time." The ad agitated some conservatives -- one used Twitter to align Ms. Dunham and Mr. Obama with Satan -- but was harmless. Ronald Reagan had a racier version 32 years ago.

Mitt hopes Americans are ready for some rules -- and binders. He is baked in the fuddy-duddy dad image from the era when white men ruled and the little women toiled over a hot stove. On Thursday, Ann Romney made his annual birthday treat, meatloaf cakes, on Rachael Ray's show while the candidate collected the endorsement of Meat Loaf, another blast from the past who balked at the notion that the Cold War was over.

Mitt may have my sister. But he still needs Ohio.

opinion_commentary

Maureen Dowd is a syndicated columnist for The New York Times.


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