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Yvonne Abraham

2012, how I miss thee

I miss 2012.

That would be the year we women thought we were in before Mitt Romney and Scott Brown set us straight. Admittedly, things weren’t perfect before the state’s two most prominent Republicans decided to take half the population for a ride in the way-back machine. We had our issues - income inequality, arguments over abortion access, soft-core Super Bowl ads, to name a few. But now those days look pretty darned sweet.

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Having lost ground with women after the brouhaha over contraceptives earlier this year (shockingly, a lot of women believed birth control ceased to be a hot-button issue decades ago), Brown and Romney have been trying to win us over. But their attempts to establish their lady bona fides have been ham-handed, even skeevy. And singularly unconvincing.

After voting for the Blunt amendment, which would have allowed employers who object to contraception to deny health coverage for it, Senator Brown, running for reelection against a formidable woman, Elizabeth Warren, launched a major offensive, speaking out against domestic violence, pushing for women in combat. In late March, he and his wife, Gail Huff, joined Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine to announce the Women for Brown Coalition. Brown proudly said he was surrounded by strong-willed women. When Huff was asked what she had taught Brown, the senator spoke for his wife.

“How to cook,’’ he said. How nice! For 1960.

Last week, Brown brought the retro again, though, to be fair, he did advance from “Leave it to Beaver’’ to “Animal House.’’ Touring a brewery with Boston Herald reporter Hillary Chabot, Brown invited her to taste the beer. Well, invited doesn’t quite describe it.

“Try this one. I’ve seen you in the bars before, don’t act like you’ve never been to a bar,’’ he said to the reporter. “We’re gonna have her dancing in the back of the truck.’’

Ew.

The wholesome Romney is incapable of such ickiness. Still, he’s on the wrong end of a big gender gap. Which is why a Democratic strategist’s comment last week - that mother of five Ann Romney “had never worked a day in her life’’ - was such a gift. Hilary Rosen’s gaffe, made in the context of a larger, valid observation that Ann Romney has never experienced the economic hardships most mothers face, gave the Romney camp a big opening. Ann Romney became the defender of stay-at-home mothers everywhere, fighting a battle that ended long ago. The presumptive GOP presidential nominee was outraged: “I happen to believe all moms are working moms,’’ he said.

Of course, as so often happens with Romney, footage soon emerged of him saying the exact opposite. In January, he said mothers on welfare should be employed, because “I want the individuals to have the dignity of work.’’ All righty, then. All moms are working moms, except poor ones. Those moms need real jobs.

Neither of these guys gets women. And pandering won’t help. So instead of further alienating them with lame, feel-your-pain appeals, they should focus on actual issues: the economy, health care, education. They’re things women care about deeply, and on which Brown and Romney can be more convincing anyway. Such a push would also return us to the 21st century, which would be lovely.

Failing that, there are always the dogs. Wednesday, Brown launched a decidedly un-frattish campaign spot devoted to his pets Snuggles and Koda, a Shih Tzu and a Yorkie respectively, that will melt hearts of both genders. See Brown waving goodbye with Koda’s paws and “Animal House’’ becomes a distant memory.

And if it works for Brown, maybe it’ll work for Romney. Surely our former governor has an adorable four-legged friend he can ... um, never mind.

Yvonne Abraham is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at abraham@globe.com
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