Editorial | On Politics Lingle acknowledges her challenge as a pro-choicer By Richard Borreca April 6, 2012 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. A new round of national political polls shows a growing gender gap between Republican and Democratic candidates. In a deft piece of political timing and also an unstated recognition that the GOP is floundering in an unwinnable "culture war," Hawaii’s former GOP Gov. Linda Lingle is emphasizing her pro-choice position. This week Lingle noted in her Web page ads that she was adding a new issue statement to include her position, which is not new, but has not been highlighted. Speaking as a candidate for the U.S. Senate, Lingle says women are being "degraded to little more than a political pawn in this year’s election cycle." "It pains me deeply to see members of my own party attempting to legislate women’s health and contraception choices," Lingle said. "I have always been an ardent supporter of women’s rights, including a woman’s right to choose. … In holding this position, I have continued to respect the deeply held, diverse beliefs of colleagues and supporters, and others who oppose ‘choice,’ but my position has never changed," explains Lingle. After more than a month of Republican presidential candidates vowing to slash federal funds for Planned Parenthood, polls are showing that women voters are strongly supporting Democrats. The ultra-liberal political group, MoveOn.org, terms it "The Republican war on women." That’s more hype than fact, and, if true, would upset GOP women from Barbara Bush to U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who next week is coming to support Lingle at a fundraiser. But new poll numbers show that the GOP is no easy place for pro-choice moderate women candidates. A Pew Research Center national poll taken last month shows President Barack Obama leading GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney by 20 percentage points among women voters. Among men voters, Obama and Romney are about even. The Pew Center noted that since 1990, a majority of women voters have identified themselves as Democrats or leaning Democratic. "I think Lingle has to convince the people of Hawaii she will not cancel out (U.S. Sen. Daniel) Inouye’s vote. She has to assure them that they can count on her even if it means going against her party," says U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who served as Hawaii Senate president when Lingle was governor. "Lingle has to distance (herself) from the crazy position of the Rs or she has no chance in Hawaii. This could be the defining issue," advises Democrat Hanabusa. "She has to craft that message very carefully, and she’s beginning with the defining one." University of Hawaii emeritus political science professor Neal Milner sees Lingle’s position as "a strong, defiant statement, but defiance with few costs and some benefits." "And it comes at a time when some of the more extreme positions on abortion and contraception have been very visible, mainly because Republicans have made them so," Milner explains. If Lingle is to win in November, she will have to appeal to more than just Republicans in Hawaii, much like she did in her two successful gubernatorial campaigns. Milner notes there is little risk to Lingle if she dives to the middle of the political spectrum and ignores the GOP’s right wing. "Social conservatives are not very powerful here, and other conservatives may have some misgivings about Lingle but are certainly going to vote for her," says Milner. Political elections always return to the middle and those who can successfully move to that middle without insulting the extremes are usually the ones skillful enough to win the race. ——— Richard Borreca writes on politics on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous Story Letters to the Editor Next Story He 'ōlelo kūhelu kā?