You may recall how, on Monday's Hardball, guest Michelle Bernard held forth with her view that the Hobby Lobby ruling would help Democrats rope in massive numbers of women voters in the 2016 presidential cycle.
Well, tonight, perhaps to build on that theme, guest host Steve Kornacki moderated a discussion segment featuring Democratic pollster Margie Onero and McCain presidential campaign alumnus Steve Schmidt centered on how both political parties were reacting to the case to build up energy with their respective bases and, of course, improve their fundraising hauls. For his part, Schmidt both failed to push back against any of Onero's misleading talking points -- he protested there wasn't any time for that -- and, predictably added his own lament that the GOP was at risk of being too socially conservative to appeal to female voters in the next presidential election year (emphases mine):
Story Continues Below Ad ↓
STEVE KORNACKI, guest host: Steve, could take us inside sort of the Republican world on this issue? Is there a divide in the party? Is the party trying to grapple with that? On the one hand, you know, the Republican Party, huge presence of religious conservatives in the party. That's part of the constituency. On the other hand, contraception is something that's used widely across party lines by women and the Republican Party has been facing this gender gap for so long. Is this something that's being talked about inside the party? How do we handle issues like this, or is the party more unified tonight than I think?
STEVE SCHMIDT, Republican strategist: Look, there are serious religious liberty issues that are part of all of this debate and you know, certainly the Republican Party, for a long time, the majority is the pro-life party.
I just want to talk about the politics of this a second and set aside for a moment the legal arguments which are more complex than I think we have an opportunity to debate right now. This is a very dangerous place for the Republican Party to be if they're viewed, as a political matter, as the anti-contraception party.
You know, being the pro-life party has never been a disqualifier from being able to elect Republicans to the presidency. But certainly when it comes to contraception, you know, these issues were decided seemingly in the mid 1960s. So, when you look at the reality in the Republican Party, if you look at just the states Democrats have won six out of the last six elections there are 242 electoral votes with 270 needed to win.
And without exception every single demographic group in this country that's growing, Democrats are gaining market share in it. And that includes single women, it includes younger voters. So this is an enormously problematic political issue for Republicans.
KORNACKI: That's really interesting to hear. So I'm just curious. How do you think it's come to this for Republicans? Contraception [is] an issue that I think we all thought we wouldn't talk about in 2014 in politics in America. How did it come to this? Did Republicans fall into a trap here politically speaking when the Obama administration did the contraception mandate? What is it in the Republican universe that's made it a problem in 2014?
SCHMIDT: Look, if you go back to the debates over the 2012 election, I don't think it was particularly surprising when Rick Santorum started to talk about these issues. Rick Santorum, I think, is a conviction politician. I think he deeply believes what comes out of his mouth. But the problem was, it wasn't that Rick Santorum's talking about this issue on the debate stage. The problem was that Mitt Romney and the other candidates didn't look at Rick Santorum and say, what are you talking about? We are not the anti-contraception party.
And here's the other aspect of it. If the Republican Party is to be viewed as a limited-government party, it can't be a limited-government party when it comes to regulations on business. When it comes to the personal space and sphere the big government wing of the party peeping through the bedroom window is very deeply offensive to a lot of Americans out there.
You look in the Northeast of the country, you look in the West Coast, the Mountain West. You look at all these places that were bedrock staples of the Republican electoral calculus, you know, it's all fallen apart. And so, there's enormous cultural differences in the country on these issues as well. And Republicans are going to have a very, very difficult time you know, particularly in the context of immigration reform collapse. And you look at some of these issues that were just on our back foot and unable to deliver as a result the economic growth message that I think is key for Republicans to be able to deliver to win elections.