After losing the Presidential election in 2012 thanks to the biggest gender gap in history, Republicans are redoubling their "war on women" program in 2013.
Republican governors Rick Perry, Scott Walker, and John Kasich--all of whom have Presidential ambitions--are competing to outdo each other with mandatory ultrasound requirements, onerous new regulations that will force abortion clinics to close, and special sessions and hidden bill signings to ram these provisions through despite majority opposition in their states.
What is going on here?
Do the Republicans have a death wish?
After all, women voters--including independent and Republican women--have proven over and over that they can and will vote against Republican candidates who aggressively curtail access to abortion, birth control, and women's health.
The arrogance of power, combined with a desire to curry favor with Republican primary voters, seems to have overcome good political sense.
Which opens the door to an exciting possibility: strong, pro-choice women candidates could give the Republican Neanderthals a run for their money.
In Texas, state senator Wendy Davis became a national star overnight when she filibustered Rick Perry's abortion-restricting legislation. Her courageous stand kicked off massive protests in Austin, and provoked Perry into calling a special session to try to force the issue. (It also prompted him into making impolitic personal attacks.)
Now there is speculation that Davis might run for governor.
In Ohio, Kasich signed abortion restrictions into law right after Wendy Davis became a household name. Among the budget provisions Kasich signed are a funding scheme that puts Planned Parenthood last on the list of candidates for scarce family planning dollars, a ban on transferring abortion patients to public hospitals, and a medically unnecessary fetal-heartbeat monitoring requirement designed to traumatize women seeking abortions.
In Wisconsin, Scott Walker will likely use the Fourth of July holiday to bury the news when he signs a mandatory ultrasound bill (meaning vaginal probes for those in early pregnancy) which will cause Planned Parenthood clinics to close where doctors don't have admitting privileges to the local hospital.
Last week the story broke that a strong potential woman candidate is testing the waters for a run against Walker.
Mary Burke, daughter of Trek Bicycle founder Richard Burke, and former head of the state's commerce department, came up in Democratic telephone polls testing potential Walker challengers.
Several Internet domain names using different combinations of Burke's name and the word governor were registered around the same time the poll began.
Burke, a millionaire who could self-finance, ran Trek's operations in seven countries before serving as commerce secretary. She could be a strong candidate against Walker, who has fallen far short of his promise to create 250,000 new jobs, instead presiding over a jobs slump: Wisconsin's job-creation numbers are about half the national average.
Lately, Burke, a member of the Madison School Board, has spent most of her time working with her family foundation on projects to help minority students in Madison.
Burke's ability to put millions into her own campaign would give her a jumpstart, and would likely attract groups like EMILY's List, which supports pro-choice women candidates who have a real chance to win.
Madison City Council Member Lisa Subeck, former executive director of the statewide office of NARAL and current executive director of the progressive, grassroots group United Wisconsin, is jazzed by the prospect of a Burke run.
"The idea of a good, strong progressive woman candidate is particularly exciting," Subeck says. "There’s a real possibility to swing prochoice women who identify as independent or Republican, given the increased attacks we've had on everything from birth control to abortion to just mere access to health care."
NARAL conducted significant research on independent and Republican women voters in 2008 and found "they'll vote for a Democrat when choice is an issue," Subeck says. "Reaching out to independent and Republican women voters is very effective.”
Scott Walker, John Kasich, and Rick Perry just made that strategy a whole lot easier.