Democrats didn’t have their message straight on Sunday.
In separate segments on CNN’s State of the Union, two top Democrats differed on whether Republicans are waging a “war on women,” a central line of attack that Democrats have reaped big political gains for amid the GOP’s recent push to limit access to contraception.
DNC chair and Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, pressed on whether it’s fair to accuse Republicans of waging a war on women, didn’t concede an inch.
“The focus of the Republican Party on turning back the clock for women really is something that’s unacceptable and shows how callous and insensitive they are towards women’s priorities,” she said.
Since 2011, Republicans have pushed various bills that would restrict access to abortion and women’s health services. The DNC chairwoman cited those efforts as well as the GOP’s opposition to legislation establishing equal pay for women as evidence that the party’s policies are antithetical to women’s interests.
Later on the same show, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and an influential African-American voice, strongly pushed back on his own party’s line of attack.
When Clever, a United Methodist pastor, lit into the GOP’s claim that President Obama is anti-religion, social conservative Ralph Reed retorted, “Congressman, is it similarly wrong, then, for Democrats to say that the Republican Party is engaged in a war on women? Is that wrong?”
“Yes, that is wrong. And I’ve never said it, not one time,” Cleaver responded. “I condemn it. If it’s a Democrat, if it’s my cousin, it’s wrong.”
“We have got to quit exaggerating our political differences,” he said.
Dems, including Obama, have enjoyed a significant boost among women voters in recent polls while hammering the message that Republicans are waging a “war on women.” Democrats have so far been able to press that attack without dissent from within, but remarks like Cleaver’s could give the GOP an opening to push back.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.