While GOP front-runner Mitt Romney lags behind President Barack Obama in his appeal to female voters for the time being, the former Massachusetts governor has a secret “gem” at his disposal, says one of the Republican Party’s most influential female leaders, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, in an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV.
“He’s got to work on getting women, but I will tell you his biggest ammunition and his biggest gem that he’s got is Ann Romney,” declared Haley on Thursday. “She’s an amazing woman who has battled cancer, battled MS, but is a strong mother, wife, survivor, and support to her husband. And I think she’ll be a great asset when it comes to bringing more women on.”
The president has opened a significant lead over Romney in the nation’s top battleground states primarily as a result of a major shift in how women under 50 are planning to vote, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll released earlier this week.
The poll of at least a dozen key states, gave Obama a 51 to 42 percent edge over Romney among registered voters, and an 18-point lead among all women voters, which USA Today described as “a greater disparity between the views of men and women than the 12-point gender gap in the 2008 election” that helped Obama win the White House.
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Haley, who endorsed Romney even though her Palmetto State voters overwhelmingly went for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in South Carolina’s January primary, said Romney would do well to engage women in a meaningful dialogue over the issues they care about.
“I think first of all, women are very thoughtful. They’re not one-issue type voters,” observed Haley, author of “Can't Is Not an Option: My American Story,” which chronicles her journey from being part of the first Indian family in a small Southern town to becoming the first female governor of South Carolina.
“They care about jobs. They care about the economy. They care about healthcare, and education, and the debt of our children and our grandchildren, and so I think what Gov. Romney needs to do is go to women and talk to them — and talk about their concerns and their issues. And that’s how you relate with them,” advised Haley.
One important lesson Romney can take from Haley’s successful gubernatorial campaign at age 38, is not to necessarily focus on people who are like minded. “You go to the people that you want to really relate to — that you want to show that you are more similar than you are different,” she said. “You want to show them where you do agree, and I think, you know he’s got to work on that.”
She chose Romney in part because she wanted someone who understood her plight as a governor, but who also was removed from day-to-day Washington politics.
“The number one thing is I do not want anyone associated with Washington,” she insisted. “It is chaotic. I feel like we need new fresh leadership. I wanted someone that knew what it was like to be on the other side of government— that knew what it was like to hire, and create jobs, and knew what it was like when businesses failed.”
Romney, more so than his Republican contenders, fit the bill. “You put all that on top of the fact that he took a failing Olympics, made it a source of pride in our country,” she said. “This is someone who hasn’t just talked about winning. He actually knows what he’s going to do the first six months he’s in office and I think that’s the kind of leadership that we need.”
Even so, she is not about to tell Gingrich, former Sen. Rick Santorum, or Texas Rep. Ron Paul to get out of the race.
“I think we all need to remember that all of these candidates have sacrificed a lot. They all have great intentions,” Haley explained. “They all — including their families — are fighting for what they think is the best for our country, and so I don’t think it’s necessarily up to us to tell them to get out. I think they will know when it’s right for them.”
Meanwhile, she is concerned that Obama is getting the upper hand — at least for the time being.
“My only fear is we’re watching President Obama start to really become a bully, and become aggressive, and become all of these things toward the Republican Party,” she said. “Every day we don’t have a nominee is one more day that he bullies, and one more day that he raises money.”
The president’s attempt to influence the Supreme Court on Obamacare earlier this week was nothing less than bullying and reflected an overall sense of desperation.
“We’ve watched him bully and scold the Republicans on the budget when he’s been unable to get a balanced budget,” she said. “This is a president that has increased more debt in his three years than Bush did in eight. And now it is unbelievable that there are three branches of government, and he’s actually going to attempt to bully the Supreme Court into doing what he wants.”
While Haley has all but taken herself out of the running for consideration as a vice presidential nominee, she does not rule anything out for the future.
“You know I’m not a planner. If you had asked me if I’d ever run for the State House I would have said ‘you were crazy,’ ” she said, describing herself as an accountant and business person who thought the state needed more business people in government. “When I feel like the people have felt my being there, and feel justified in that I’ve done a good job, then I’ll decide what’s next.”
While conservative voters in her state and others appear to have been slow to embrace Romney, Haley said that they have been united in a common view that Obama must not be re-elected.
“We have to look at President Obama’s record,” she explained. “We’ve lost our credit rating for the first time.”
Not to mention Obama’s promise that unemployment would not rise above 8 percent once his stimulus plan was passed.
“Go into a grocery store and buy milk and think about what it was four years ago. Go to the gas pump. That’s all we need to do is stay focused,” she urged. “President Obama is going to distract. He’s going to complain. He’s going to scare the public into trying to re-elect him again. But what I will tell you is as you see Republicans going through these changes of candidates — we might be trying to look for what we want in a nominee. What we all will gather around — what we all will support — is we know what we don’t want, and we don’t want what we’ve had the past three years.”
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