Mitt Romney lags behind Barack Obama significantly with women in most recent national polls. Romney is losing women by 10 points in last week’s Quinnipiac poll, 11 points in the CBS/New York Times poll, 13 points according Pew, 8 points in the Fox News survey, and 16 points according to CNN.
The Romney campaign is now aggressively trying to appeal to women voters. Showing off Mitt’s “softer side” is only going to do so much, though. Instead, Romney could choose a running mate who can appeal to women.
State-level polling over the past few years allows for comparisons of many possible running mates. Because state pollsters use different methodologies and poll at different times, however, the figures below provide only a rough impression of how women might perceive a possible running mate.
First, I look at the difference between the proportion of men and women that approve of a possible VP pick in their home state. There is a sizable 15 point gap between the proportion of men and women who approve of the job Chris Christie is doing. Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico has one of the smallest. On the flip side, Senator Susan Collins of Maine receives much stronger support from women than men.
Another approach is to look at the difference between women’s approval and disapproval of these possible running mates. The higher the number, the stronger the support from women. Using this measurement, most of the possible candidates receive more support than opposition from women, but Governor Mitch Daniels and Senator Susan Collins stand out as exceptionally popular.
Two possible candidates are not included in the above figures. Large numbers of people in Ohio don’t have an opinion of Senator Rob Portman, making these measurements less telling as a barometer of running mate performance. The latest Ohio poll shows that Portman is more popular among men than women and more women approve than disapprove of his job performance. Wisconsin statewide polling of Representative Paul Ryan doesn’t ask about job approval since he serves a single district. Instead, Public Policy Polling asks respondents whether they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of him. Ryan is more popular among men than women, while women see him more unfavorably than favorably.
As people come to know a politician over time, gender differences can widen or shrink. While trends are not available for all the possible candidates, Governor Susana Martinez has managed to significantly decrease the difference in support among men and women during her first year in office. Senator Marco Rubio has seen the difference increase since he took office. Governor Bob McDonnell and Senator Susan Collins have seen little change in their gender differences. Governor Chris Christie’s gender difference has expanded and contracted.
Based on gender considerations alone, Governor Chris Christie, Governor Nikki Haley, and Representative Paul Ryan would be problematic choices as a running mate for Mitt Romney. Governor Mitch Daniels and Senator Susan Collins stand out as strong candidates. The data is less clear, but suggests that Senator Marco Rubio, Governor Bob McDonnell, Governor Susana Martinez, and Senator Rob Portman could help Romney.