GOP women’s motivational issues tend to be camouflaged, lying in the tall grasses of the general electorate. Cruz and Rubio have been beating the national-security drum these past couple of weeks with the gusto of the bongo guy from Guster, which might make a lot of sense if they’re hoping to win women’s votes. As it turns out, one particular issue currently concerns Republican women in Iowa over all others: terrorism. Thirty-four percent of them said they were concerned about it in that CNN poll, compared with 21 percent of Republican men. That sets Republican women apart from Democratic women in Iowa too; only 12 percent of that group were worried enough about terrorism to make it the issue they’d vote on.
The literature on voting patterns among GOP women is pretty thin, according to Susan Carroll of Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics. But, she said, “generally, they look a lot like men in their preferences.” It didn’t surprise her, though, that women are responding to the Republican candidates’ messages on national security. Carroll pointed to President George W. Bush’s courting of so-called “security moms” in the 2004 election. “He was trying to put out a message about protecting children and families from terrorism,” she said. Fifty-six percent of married women with children voted to re-elect Bush that year.
“I would say that women voters are just as hawkish [as men], if not more so,” Wilson said. “Particularly mothers end up being more hawkish than males on national-security issues — that’s why we saw Reagan do so well with women in 1980, and that’s why I think Sen. Cruz will do very well with women this year.”