Presidential nominee Mitt Romney regularly had to fend off attacks that he was anti-woman, but struggled to take positions on legislation such as the Fair Pay Act. At one point, Mr. Romney tried to rebut the charges by talking about the “binders full of women” he had when he was Massachusetts governor and was trying to staff his administration. The remark was widely lampooned.
President Obama went on to win the female vote 55 percent to 44 percent, according to exit polling.
The Republican National Committee warned in its postelection analysis — called the Growth and Opportunity Project — that when it comes to social issues that the party must “in fact and deed be inclusive and welcoming.”
“If we are not, we will limit our ability to attract young people and others, including many women, who agree with us on some but not all issues,” the report said, adding that Republicans should do a better job of countering Democrats’ attempts to portray them as anti-women.
“In 2012, the Republican response to this attack was muddled, and too often the attack went undefended altogether. We need to actively combat this, better prepare our surrogates, and not stand idly by while the Democrats pigeonhole us using false attacks,” it said.
In New Jersey, Mr. Christie left Democrats little opening to make those attacks — particularly after he helped steer his state through Superstorm Sandy last year, then helped secure tens of billions of dollars in federal assistance.
Polling showed his leadership on that issue helped him with voters across the board, including the three categories — women, minorities and young voters — that Republicans want to reach.
In Virginia, though, Democrats went full-throttle on the attacks.
On Monday, Mr. McAuliffe and Mr. Biden called Mr. Cuccinelli a social crusader bent on curbing women’s access to health care and to abortion. Mr. Biden said Mr. Cuccinelli’s views on women are in line with those of the tea party movement and “literally from another era.”
“Everything they talk about, without exaggeration, is about turning back what the rest of the country and the world thinks is progress,” Mr. Biden said. “It’s hard to fathom this state being led by a man who rejects all that this new thinking stands for. The whole nation is looking at this race. That’s not hyperbole.”
“Women are saying, ‘Hey, wait a minute, this guy is anti-choice, anti-marriage equality, anti-Planned Parenthood and anti-pay equity,’” she said. “He is aligned with the tea party in terms of social values.”
William J. Palatucci, a longtime Christie confidante and member of the Republican National Committee, said the charge against Mr. Christie did not stick because “women voters in New Jersey simply find the governor genuine and sincerely committed to tackling big issues.”
“He’s connected with all voters, especially women, as a person who truly cares about the problems confronting their families,” Mr. Palatucci said. “They trust him to do the right thing.”
Early exit polls showed that Mr. Christie won 56 percent of the female vote, 45 percent of the Hispanic vote and 21 percent of the black vote — all huge improvements over recent Republican presidential contenders.