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Republicans Join the War on Poverty!

Nearly 50 years after LBJ declared a War on Poverty, political conservatives have not only conceded that poverty is bad, but have become outraged about it. (At least if it affects women.) And they want you to be outraged, too. (That is, if you are a woman who voted for Obama in 2008, are concerned about the GOP’s positions on social issues, but might possibly be convinced to back Romney in November for economic reasons.)

The conservative 527 American Crossroads unveiled a new television ad this week called “Obama’s War on Women” and it’s unlike anything I’ve seen before in political advertising. For one thing, the narrator mentions “poverty” or “impoverished” eight times in one-minute. The ad’s graphic text also emphasizes the theme, using large block letters to spell out “IN POVERTY” in each example. (As in: “17 million women IN POVERTY” in Obama’s America.)

The ad plays fast-and-loose with statistics to make the case that Obama’s presidency has been particularly bad for the financial well-being of women. It cites, for instance, the growing number of women in certain categories—the number of women in the U.S. continues to grow as the population increases—instead of the poverty rate. But setting aside that fairly serious problem, the ad is still quite extraordinary.

After all, for at least 30 years, Republicans haven’t used the most sympathetic language when referring to poor single mothers and other women in poverty. The phrase “welfare queens” comes to mind. But now conservatives who use to complain that single moms should just get a job are not exercised about the fact that during the economic recovery, “…men have gained FOUR TIMES AS MANY JOBS as women.”

Anti-poverty advocates rightly complain that during political campaigns, both parties focus on the middle class, while nobody mentions the poor—a reliably unreliable voting demographic. So it’s refreshing to see Republicans highlight the scourge of poverty. I’m sure there will be a follow-up ad outlining proposed GOP policies targeted to help the poor. And maybe a pledge to stop calling the idea of equal pay for women “a job-killing burden.”