Obama's 'Life of Julia': A deceptive pitch to female voters?

The Week's Editorial Staff
The Week

Team Obama rolls out a web feature outlining how a fictional woman would fare under his and Mitt Romney's policies, and the GOP blasts it as "patronizing"

President Obama's re-election campaign unveiled a new interactive web feature on Thursday that walks viewers through the life of the fictional Julia, pointing out how, according to Team Obama, her life would differ under the president's policies and those of GOP challenger Mitt Romney. Not surprisingly, Julia fares much better if Obama wins a second term. (For example: Under Obama, Julia gets financial aid for college and robust health coverage — not so under Romney.) Of course, Republicans pounced with "a hefty dose of snark and a bevy of economic statistics," says Devin Dwyer at ABC News, flooding Twitter with links to graphs of what Julia's share of the national debt would be under Obama and lampooning the whole "Life of Julia" story as a "patronizing" cautionary tale of dependency on the state. Is Julia a clever way to illustrate policy differences, or a misfired shot in the war for female voters?

Julia is only "silly" on the surface: At first glance, the birth of the fictional Julia "seems like a low point in a campaign season" already saturated with "imaginary issues," says Ana Marie Cox at Britain's The Guardian. And while Julia's critics have some good points — in her world, "Obama gets to be president for 67 years," for example — by "baiting the Republicans into mocking the Julia feint," Team Obama has us discussing real policy choices. In real life, "Romney's policies are bad for women."
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The idea is clever, but dishonest: Here's the big problem with the otherwise "nifty Obama cartoon," says Michael Scherer at TIME: "Some of what the Obama campaign is promising Julia in 2012 won't be there when she grows older," even if Obama wins a second term and gets his current policy proposals enacted. Most glaringly, Julia wouldn't get full Medicare and Social Security benefits at age 65 under either Obama or Romney. Add in some questionable assumptions about Romney's policies, and you can't escape that Julia's being misled.
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Deceptive or not, Julia did her job: Are the policy choices Julia faces "oversimplified? Yes," says Rachel Weiner at The Washington Post. "Slanted to favor Obama? Of course. (This is politics, after all.)" But Julia has also been unquestionably effective. Republicans spent the whole day jeering her, which meant "talking about women voters and women's issues, where Obama dominates." And flooding the Twitterverse with #Julia? It may blunt Obama's message, but it's also a great way to "drive more people to Obama's campaign website."
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