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Clarence Page / Politics

Romney's Women Woes. Hint: They Like Guys Who Listen

Mitt Romney is trying to talk his way out of his gender gap, but take it from me, women like guys who listen. My wife told me that.

Since Ann and Mitt Romney's long marriage appears to be quite strong, he probably knows the value of being a good listener. Unfortunately, his speaking style doesn't display much of it on the campaign trail.

Listening matters. As important as policy may be, voters tend to choose the candidate they think is "on my side." They want someone who connects with them, who conveys an understanding of their hopes and dreams.

That's why recent presidents like George W. Bushand Bill Clinton, whatever else you may think of them, always seemed to have their big ears on when talking to people. Listening leads to a level of connection and understanding that voters, among others, appreciate.

By that standard, I used to think Romney, the seasoned businessman and former Massachusetts governor, might well have an advantage. President Barack Obama looks by contrast like a loner who has to remind himself to look less professorial and more warm and fuzzy.

Yet it is Romney who has habitually stepped on his own campaign victories with gaffes and a persistent awkwardness about his wealth and political beliefs.

Unlike Bush's folksy "I hear you" or Clinton's empathetic "I feel your pain," Romney's delivery tends to sound about as engaging as a CEO's annual report to stockholders.

I believe that helps explain why a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, which asks which man "better understands the economic problems people in this country are having," gives the edge to Obama (49 percent) over Romney (37 percent).

Among women, Obama scores 20 points over Romney on this empathy question, up 3 percentage points since a February survey. That tends to match the widening gender gap between the two candidates in other recent polls.

The partisan gender gap is not new. Men have been voting mostly Republican and women mostly Democratic for more than 30 years. But the gap suddenly widened in the past couple of months.

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(c) 2012 CLARENCE PAGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.



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