For its latest effort to expand the appeal of the Republican Party, the Republican National Committee (RNC) launched a new ad campaign, "Create Your American Dream," featuring Americans stating why they are Republicans. When announcing the six-figure ad buy in fourteen 2014 target Senate states, the RNC press release mentions that the ads tested well with women.
The Republican Party is making a noticeable effort to try to reach more women, but the success of the Democrats’ “war on women” strategy suggests more is needed to maximize gains in the 2014 midterm election.
It has been a year since the RNC released the Growth and Opportunity Project report, which examined what went wrong for Republicans in the 2012 election cycle and offered suggestions for how to grow the Republican Party. Recognizing women are the majority of voters, the report called for programs to support women candidates and better connect with female voters. After all, President Barack Obama won women by 11 points in the 2012 presidential election, and he won single women, who make up 40 percent of female voters, by 36 percent. The recommendations speak more broadly than just to the RNC; they’re directed at Republican efforts in general.
The report emphasized the need to highlight Republican women and ways that Republican policies help women, recruit and train more Republican women to run for office and improve messaging to women.
The RNC has certainly followed the recommendation to spotlight more Republican women. The "Create Your American Dream" ad campaign features Republican women telling their stories of why they are Republicans. As a part of its program to highlight work being done by younger leaders, the RNC included an all-female crew in its January Rising Stars Program. In addition, for Women’s History Month, RNC Co-Chair Sharon Day paid tribute to women who made a positive impact on our country, such as Susan B. Anthony. She also gave three Republican women awards at a recent Women’s History Month celebration. Alex Smith, National Chair of the College Republican National Committee, was awarded the 2014 Jeane Kirkpatrick Trailblazer Award; Maria Cino, who served as President and CEO of the 2008 Republican National Convention, was honored with the Susan B. Anthony Award; and Christine Toretti, the Pennsylvania RNC National Committeewoman, was selected for the Mary Louise Smith Trailblazer Award. These women have been on the ground promoting Republican ideas for years.
Noting that women need to be asked to run for office, the report called for more efforts to encourage women to run for office. Many organizations have taken up efforts to recruit female candidates.
One group, the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), which works to elect Republicans to the office of lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and state legislator, has launched an effort to recruit more female candidates. As part of its Future Majority Project, the RSLC seeks to recruit 300 female candidates and elect at least 150 of them in the 2013-2014 cycle. The RSLC has reportedly already recruited 200 women in at least 35 states to run. For example, the RSLC has recently announced that 30 Republican women, including 27 new candidates, filed to run for the state legislature in Montana, which is made up of 150 members. These efforts to get women elected to down-ballot offices matter because these positions often are the training grounds for higher office.
At the federal level, the National Republican Congressional Committee started Project GROW, which stands for Growing Republican Opportunities for Women, to promote Republican female voices. As part of the program, female candidates are mentored by Members of Congress.
Also, a number of political action committees have been launched on the Right with creative names to support women candidates—RightNOW Women PAC was launched in January, and it joins She PAC, VIEW PAC, and others.
The report notes that the Right also needs to invest in messaging development to better counteract the "war on women" rhetoric. This is the area where there seems to be a need for a more concentrated effort. Republicans must have a strong message that exposes the hollowness of the "war on women" charge and makes the case that Democratic policies, such as the Affordable Care Act, are actually making life worse for women. Moreover, Republican leaders need to present a positive vision for how their policy prescriptions will lead to better outcomes for women and all Americans.
Republicans are making strides in reaching out to women. Yet much more work needs to be done both in anticipation of 2014 and beyond.