Ron Paul's been playing to big crowds in Iowa and New Hampshire, but there's something striking about them — there are usually way more men than women at his events.
That gender gap was evident in the voting in Iowa, too, where entrance polls before the caucuses showed he won a larger percentage of the male vote than the female vote. The gap is persisting into New Hampshire, where The Washington Times/JZ Analytics poll released last week found a 12 percentage point difference between his support from men and women.
Following Iowa's voting, his supporters took note.
"Huge gender gap! We are not getting women voters!" read the headline on an active discussion on DailyPaul.com, an independent website that has become a must-read forum for his supporters.
The topic drew more than 300 replies, making it one of the most popular issues on the site over the past week. Explanations included Mr. Paul's pro-life stance on abortion and remarks that women do not value liberty as much as men and that female voters do not find Mr. Paul as physically attractive as other candidates.
Susan J. Carroll, senior scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, said the explanation is probably no more complex than Mr. Paul's limited-government views. She said those can alienate women who are more likely than men to be care providers, and who count on government assistance in those roles.
"The one thing that does divide women and men in the general electorate is their views on the role of government, with men being much more likely to want to cut back on government than women are," she said.
Polls suggest Mr. Paul is positioned for a second-place finish in New Hampshire on Tuesday, following his third-place showing in Iowa. Next up is South Carolina and then Florida, where all of the candidates will have to quickly broaden their appeal by way of television ads and mass communication, rather than the town-hall meetings and personal contact that prevail in Iowa and New Hampshire.
The Paul campaign did not respond to a request for comment for this article.
The gender gap has been evident in general elections since 1980, with women favoring Democrats and men favoring Republicans. But it is not as common in primaries, where voters are cut from more ideologically uniform cloth and are choosing candidates based on electability or how well they conform to orthodoxy.
This year, though, the numbers showing a striking gap for Mr. Paul.
The entrance poll taken by the Associated Press and the major broadcast networks of those walking into Iowa's caucuses last week found him getting support of 24 percent of male voters — most of any of the candidates — but just 19 percent of female voters, for a gender gap of 5 points.
New Hampshire is shaping up to be even more stark. The Times/JZ Analytics poll taken Wednesday, the day after Iowa's caucuses, found a 12 percentage point gap between Mr. Paul's share of male likely voters and his share of female supporters.
The gap between his married and single supporters is more pronounced. He was winning support of nearly half of all single voters in the New Hampshire survey, but from just 17 percent of married voters.
On the DailyPaul forum, his supporters viewed the matter chiefly not as a comment on how well he was doing with men, but on how poorly he was doing with women. They debated whether it was a matter of his stance on the issues or the packaging of his message.
"I think women are more susceptible to MSM's signals that Ron Paul is out in the cold, not a part of the establishment community. It's certainly easier for a man than for a woman to fight a battle on his own," wrote one commenter who went by "Plop."
Another poster said a women-for-Paul website is in the works.
Asked by The Times about the gap, Paul supporters who came to see their candidate campaign in New Hampshire last week pondered the question.
"They're wives, trying to take care of the family and kids. Maybe they are more about, you know, they want the health benefits, they want things from the government to take care of the family. I don't know," said Ryan Amidon, 35, from Garner, Mass., who drove to see Mr. Paul campaign at MoeJoe's Family Restaurant in Manchester.
"It is kind of weird," he said. "I noticed the same thing. Maybe it's the gun-rights thing, Second Amendment. More guys have guns. It's kind of odd, though."
Stephen Gilmore, 24, who saw Mr. Paul in Nashua, guessed Mr. Paul's pro-life stance is off-putting to women. His girlfriend, Melissa Parsons, 21, agreed. "That's probably a big part of it," she said.
But Jennifer L. Lawless, director of the Women & Politics Institute at American University, said the abortion explanation probably doesn't explain Mr. Paul's support because all of the candidates in the primary hold pro-life views, and they are working to attract Republican primary voters.
She said it seems Mr. Paul's message is targeted at men, and in particular young men, who are likely to be attracted to his fiscal conservative message.
"Especially in a state like New Hampshire where you've got fiscal conservatives who are not necessarily social conservatives, there's a nice well to be primed there," she said.
Some candidates have made overt appeals. Newt Gingrich held a forum with women before the caucuses, sponsored by CafeMom.com and moderated by Republican pollster Frank Luntz, where he answered female voters' questions.
At one point, asked about his mother, Mr. Gingrich began to weep.
Online, Mr. Paul's supporters debated ways to try to narrow the gap. Some suggested having Mr. Paul bring his wife and grandchildren on the campaign circuit — something he has done more often in recent weeks. Others wanted Mr. Paul to highlight his previous career as an obstetrician, or to talk about his desire to curtail the war in Afghanistan.
Others pondered how they could broaden their own appeals when spreading the gospel of Mr. Paul.
Mr. Paul does have one high-profile female supporter — singer Kelly Clarkson, an early winner of Fox's "American Idol" contest, who said on Twitter that "Ron Paul is about letting people decide, not the government. I am for this."
• Seth McLaughlin and Dave Boyer, reporting from New Hampshire, contributed to this report.
© Copyright 2015 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.