Scandals Take a Toll on Democrats' 'War on Women' Message

PHOTO: Anthony Weiner and Bob FilnerPlayAP Photo|Getty Images
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Turnabout is fair play according to Republicans who are now turning the "war on women" back on Democrats.

With the help of a few local Democratic politicians with sordid pasts, Republicans have gained new ammunition to counter the narrative pushed by Democrats in the last two elections that Republican policies and politicians have an anti-woman agenda.

"The Democrats started this war on women to try to mislead women for political reasons," Republican National Committee spokesperson Kirsten Kukowski told ABC News. "They should have looked at their own elected officials and candidates before hypocritically trying to take the moral high ground."

The headline grabbing stories of sexual indiscretion seem to keep coming.

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, a Democrat who is accused of sexual harassment by several women, is holding on to power despite calls from officials in the city and national Democrats to step down. And now an eigth woman has come forward adding to the allegations.

After resigning as governor of New York in 2008 for soliciting high dollar prostitutes, Eliot Spitzer's presence in the New York City Comptroller race has riled local women's groups. Spitzer is also a Democrat.

But it is former Congressman Anthony Weiner's troubled attempt to launch a political comeback in the New York City mayor's race that seems to be the gift that keeps on giving for Republicans and an ongoing headache for Democrats.

Weiner, who resigned in 2011 for sending sex messages to women online and lying about it, appears to be determined to power through to the race's finish with a diminishing circle of political allies around him.

How can Anthony Weiner's wife forgive?

After reigniting the controversy surrounding his resignation by admitting that a year after that low point he didn't stop sexting, Weiner's campaign has been in a tailspin. His campaign manager resigned, the New York Daily News splashed an unflattering tell all written by a former campaign intern on the papers covers, and Democrats in Washington began nudging him to drop out.

And the latest: his campaign's top communications aide Barbara Morgan Tuesday night gave a slur-laden interview to the Talking Points Memo calling the intern Olivia Nuzzi a slut among other sexist profanities.

"The circus that is the Weiner campaign has crossed the final line: Sexist name-calling and slut shaming is outrageous, unacceptable, and has no place in any campaign," said Nita Chaudhary, the co-founder of progressive women's group UltraViolet. "Barbara Morgan should be fired immediately."

"New York can do better than this, and quite frankly women everywhere deserve better than this," she added.

After being relentlessly hammered for years by Democrats over the comments of Republican pols, like former Rep. Todd Akin and his now infamous "legitimate rape" statement, Republicans aren't letting the opportunity pass them by.

Republicans also note that even while Democratic leaders like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi condemned Weiner's actions, they haven't called for his resignation.

"That's a decision for Anthony Weiner to make," said DNC Chairman Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz Wednesday on MSNBC when asked why she hasn't called for Weiner to resign. "Anthony Wiener is not a public office holder. He's running for office and every candidate has to make their own decisions when it comes to the controversy swirling around Anthony."

The 2012 cycle was dominated by a Democratic strategy of highlighting every potentially insensitive Republican statement or effort to restrict reproductive rights and it is unlikely that these scandals will change that. Democrats still plan to highlight efforts to pass anti-abortion laws at the state and national levels and Republican opposition to pay equity policies.

"Republicans are desperately trying to change the subject because they know that their policy proposals continue to be toxic with women," DNC spokesman Michael Czin told ABC News. "In 2012, Republicans' offensive rhetoric and extreme positions cost them the White House and numerous Congressional races – and it's clear they haven't learned their lesson."

"Republicans don't just have a message problem with women – they have a substance problem, and until they reverse course and change the policies that they're proposing they'll continue to lose the support of women voters at the local, state and national level," he added.

But the sandals have at least one very concrete implication for Democrats, Republican say: it yet again tarnishes the Clinton name.

Over the last week, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has hammered the message home in emails to reporters.

"The leaders of the party that is basing its entire 2014 electoral strategy on manufacturing and exploiting the term, "War on Women," seem to care less as Democrat after Democrat is caught engaging in predatory behavior against women," wrote DSCC spokesman Brad Dayspring. "In the political world, is anything more degrading to women than accepting sexual assault, harassment, and predatory behavior?"

He called into question whether Bill Clinton, a powerful surrogate and Democratic fundraiser, could continue to stump for Democratic candidates and whether Hillary Clinton, a presumptive Democratic candidate for president in2016, will be haunted her closeness to the Weiner scandal. Huma Abedin, Weiner's wife, is one of Clinton's top aides.

"They are inextricably linked. Huma is one of Hillary's closet advisers, Bill presided over their wedding," noted Tim Miller, executive director of America Rising, a G.O.P research group that has documented the Weiner-Clinton ties in recent weeks. "The Clintons are incapable of avoiding drama and the Weiner scandal is just another example of that."