Santorum Is Out, But Will Romney Get Women's Votes?

With the former Pennsylvania senator out of the race, who will conservative women voters support?

On the heels of a long weekend in the hospital with his daughter Bella, presidential hopeful Rick Santorum has suspended his bid for the oval office. After canceling events earlier this week, the former senator held a press conference in his home state of Pennsylvania, telling reporters, “This presidential race is over for me and we will suspend our campaign effective today.”

Despite predictions of Mitt Romney’s “inevitable” nomination since early in the race and the widening delegate count, the announcement came as a surprise, hitting the airwaves just hours after some outlets had news that the Santorum camp was expected to resume campaign events since Bella had been released from the hospital. The favorite among conservative Christian circles, Santorum rose from relative obscurity. Considered no real threat in the beginning of the GOP race for the White House, the Pennsylvania senator and his family took the nation by storm. Perhaps most especially his family.

His daughter, Bella, who was born with Trisomy 18 -- a rare genetic disorder -- became something of a campaign mascot and was a frequent center of attention in his speeches, which eventually garnered him unwavering support among those who respect conventional family values. Not the least of those groups was conservative women, and his absence in the race going forward makes it unclear who those women will support -- or rather how much support they’ll offer -- in November.

We conservatives have solid voting records and those who supported Santorum hold deep conservative beliefs, making them unlikely to flop all the way to the Obama camp. But if Romney’s rocky track record in landing a nomination to begin with weren’t enough, his past support among women is even more checkered. The fact that Romney's stands on issues like abortion and birth control have morphed over the years might be enough to lose him votes among conservative women who are more moderate and will certainly be enough to cost him the impassioned support those right-wing women offered his rival. After all, while some might argue Romney did positive things for women while running Massachusetts, expanding health care is hardly going to win him any gold stars in a time when fighting "Obamacare" is at the top of the GOP agenda.

Another downfall for Romney among voters is his lack of charisma in general. In a recent Gallup poll, only 26 percent of people considered Romney “likable” and his image problem extends deeply into the female demographic, with only 38 percent of women in the same poll backing him in a face-off against Obama.

Women aren’t necessarily questioning Romney’s ability to do the job; most Americans are pretty evenly divided on issues of the economy and job creation, for instance. But if he doesn’t find a way to connect with voters soon, it may not matter how qualified he is. Women will play a key role in the fall election and he can’t play the family man card that both Obama and Santorum have used so well.

On the bright side, maybe a strong woman on the GOP Presidential ticket isn’t such a bad idea, after all. The way I see it, "Mittens" is going to need all the help he can get.

Diana Prichard is a red-leaning freelance writer living and working a blue state. She authors Cultivating the Art of Sustenance. Follow her on Twitter: @diana_prichard.

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