War over #Julia: Has Obama campaign set a trap for Republicans?

The Obama campaign's 'Life of Julia' Web infographic shows how government helps women from cradle to grave. Republicans have pounced on it as 'nanny state' excess. But the #Julia Internet meme has taken off.

Steven Senne/AP
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, holding a flyer, campaigns at a female-owned work site in Hartford, Conn., last month in a bid to refute claims that he and his fellow Republicans are waging a 'war on women.'

When the Obama campaign gave birth to “Julia” on Thursday, a cartoon woman whose “life” is depicted in a multipage Web infographic, the stated goal was to show voters how President Obama’s policies help women from cradle to grave.

But conservatives – including the Republican National Committee – jumped all over Julia, decrying her as representing the kind of socialistic future that President Obama envisions for America, with a government that is in our lives with unaffordable handouts every step of the way.

Immediately, the #Julia hashtag took off on Twitter. And the so-called “war on women” that the Democrats accuse the Republicans of waging became the war over Julia.

“As silly as it is, even baiting the Republicans into mocking the Julia feint is a form of engaging them on the gender issue,” writes Ana Marie Cox at The Guardian.

And, as is well-documented in polls, Mr. Obama crushes presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney among women voters, a deficit Mr. Romney has been addressing this week. On Thursday, he campaigned in Virginia with former primary opponent Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) of Minnesota, and spoke of the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs.

But on the Web, it was Julia, not Michele, who was getting the attention. In the first frame of “The Life of Julia,” 3-year-old Julia is enrolled in Head Start to help her get ready for kindergarten. Under Romney, the graphic asserts, the federal budget “would cut programs like Head Start by 20 percent, meaning the program would offer 200,000 fewer slots per year.”

Never mind that Romney has not said he would cut Head Start by 20 percent. That’s an extrapolation the Obama camp makes, on the assumption that Romney would cut domestic spending equally across the board.

As Julia goes through life, she gets a good public education because of Race to the Top, receives a Pell Grant to attend college, has surgery as a young adult under her parents’ health insurance, gets a loan from the Small Business Administration for her Web startup, and so on, all the way into old age, where a still-functioning Medicare and Social Security help her retire comfortably. Free of worries, she volunteers at a community garden.

We’re left to imagine that in the presumed Romney dystopia, senior-citizen Julia is eating cat food and living in a cardboard box, because, the graphic states, “under Romney, Julia's benefits could be cut by 40 percent.”

Republicans were not amused. The Republican National Committee immediately posted a counternarrative on its Tumblr account:

“#Julie is bummed. Her share of the national debt went up $16,345 under Obama.”

“#Julia, the college student, is paying record high tuition to attend college.”

“#Julia, about to graduate, can’t find a job in the Obama economy.”

And so on.

Each point is followed by a link to a website with supporting data. By Julia's retirement, of course, there is no Medicare or Social Security, because Obama let them go broke.

The Twitter-verse exploded over Julia.

Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin: “I will read Life of #Julia to my kids to show them how NOT to live their lives – tethered to Nanny State.”

Jim Geraghty of National Review: “Where’s the slide for when #Julia concludes she’s never going to find a job and drops out of the workforce?”

Conservative talk-show host Dana Loesch: “I've no idea how I or other women survived this long without the government making all of our decisions for us. #julia”

The April employment numbers out Friday morning, showing disappointing job creation, are no doubt a bigger problem for Obama than conservatives piling on poor Julia. But if all the attention gets more voters to click through her “life,” driving home his message that the government is there to help women, then maybe Obama will actually win this skirmish.

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