By MAGGIE HABERMAN, POLITICO – Pennsylvania Republican Gov. Tom Corbett once said women who didn’t want to view images of a fetus they were seeking to abort could simply close their eyes. His potential 2014 opponent, Democratic Rep. Allyson Schwartz, worked for a family planning clinic for more than a dozen years.
The “war on women” may be headed to Pennsylvania.
No other gubernatorial race in the country could provide a clearer test of the staying power of one of 2012’s fiercest messaging duels. President Barack Obama and Democrats portrayed Republicans as anti-women throwbacks who would defund Planned Parenthood and deprive women of equal pay; Republicans countered that it was all a clever distraction from Democrats’ stewardship of a lousy economy.
Schwartz, a 64-year-old native New Yorker and five-term congresswoman, would represent a patchwork of identity politics: She would become the state’s first female governor and third Jewish governor. She is a prolific fundraiser and a veteran of the state’s political scene.
But she would symbolize something more: as a former women’s health center administrator, she is already the target of attacks in the conservative blogosphere for “running an abortion clinic.” At the same time, Corbett — one of the Republicans’ weakest incumbents in public polls — has been under sustained fire from the left over a remark supporting the idea of forcing women to have an ultrasound before an abortion.
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The race would not only measure the lingering effect of what Democrats dubbed the “war on women” during Obama’s reelection effort, but it would be among the most ideologically polarized the state has seen in years. Republicans accused the Obama campaign of repeatedly invoking social issues as a wedge for women’s support, yet could never find a way to sell either the policies or their messaging.
“There’s enough intersection of history here and uniqueness to make this a very interesting governor’s race,” said Alan Novak, a former Pennsylvania GOP chairman during Tom Ridge’s era as governor.
Schwartz, for her part, is not casting the race in such terms. A member of the New Democrat Coalition, a group of self-styled moderate House members, her message is about the economy, and not the social issues that dominated much of the public debate in the 2012 race.