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Erbe: At Republican convention ladies night, feelin' ain't right

At the Republican National Convention, Ann Romney shares

At the Republican National Convention, Ann Romney shares the family side of Mitt Romney, the man she met at a high school dance more than four decades ago. (Aug. 28, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

In case you missed it, Tuesday night was supposed to be ladies night at the GOP Convention. But if you did miss it, don't feel alone. So did the mainstream media, despite attempts by GOP spinmeisters to paint it as such.

Almost 50 percent of the speakers were women, led by Ann Romney, who tried to convince the voting public that she and her multimillionaire husband, Mitt, struggle just like blue-collar, out-of-work couples nationwide.

Other speakers in a long list of female GOP almost-luminaries included: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley; Sher Valenzuela, who is running for lieutenant governor of Delaware; Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, the highest-ranking woman in the GOP-controlled House; and Mia Love, mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, who's seeking a House seat. She'd be the first black female GOP member of Congress if she won in November.

In an ironic commentary on the GOP's attempt to lure female voters, all the speakers except Ann Romney were overshadowed by the keynoter, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

The GOP's feckless attempt to serve up a night designed to address women's concerns will prove as successful as a chef's attempt to lure new customers to a restaurant that serves up fetid repasts.

Among women voters, President Barack Obama leads his GOP rival by anywhere from 6 to 16 percentage points, according to polls this week by ABC News/Washington Post (49-43), NBC/Wall Street Journal (51-41) and Lifetime Television (52-36).

This, despite the fact that some women have adopted a "hold your nose and vote" posture for this president. Many have major disagreements with the Democratic Party on important issues such as job creation, tax policy, environmental regulation and so on. But they simply cannot vote for a candidate whose party is systematically trying to roll back laws and regulations on women's reproductive rights to someplace in our far, distant past.

The reason both parties vie so contentiously for women's votes is two-fold: Women turn out in higher percentages than men, and the white men's vote is so soldered to the GOP it is simply not up for grabs.

Mitt Romney is giving the job of luring women voters to his wife, Ann. As charismatic and appealing a character as she may be, she's selling a storyline few women are buying. It's hard for most women to believe that she, like they, is just a normal human being with average, everyday struggles and problems. She will appeal to married, white, affluent women like herself (George W. Bush won their votes both times he ran for president), But she falls flat with low-income women, single women, women of color and older women.

As for the other ladies night speakers, Haley devoted her podium time to anything but women's issues, portraying herself as the tough, anti-immigration daughter of immigrants and job-creating leader she would like to be.

Valenzuela's message, whatever it was supposed to be, was drowned out by pre-speech publicity. She became an all-too-enticing target of media scorn when it came out she had built her successful furniture business by securing huge government contracts. You know how Republicans froth over Obama's suggestion that small business owners can't compete without the support of government infrastructure. Valenzuela, although she allows otherwise, is Exhibit A when it comes to women and minorities relying on government support to launch their own businesses. She simply would not have made it in the business world without standing on Uncle Sam's shoulders.

So if we're gauging the Romney campaign's attempt to win the women's vote by the much-ballyhooed ladies night, I would give the campaign a failing grade.

Bonnie Erbe, a TV host, writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service. Email