As the midterms creep closer, the GOP is aggressively campaigning to win women’s votes.
The GOP has struggled to shake “war on women” criticisms for years; in their 2012 autopsy report, they concluded they needed to better combat Democrats’ narrative, be more inclusive, and recruit more women.
This week, Republicans launched four different efforts to convince women they’ve achieved those goals — even as polls and data show mixed results at best — signaling just how important the female voter has become in their midterm strategy.
On Thursday, Republican National Committee co-chair Sharon Day published a column on BlogHer, arguing that Democrats are objectifying women when they appeal to them on issues like abortion and attacking Cosmopolitan magazine for writing about reproductive rights in their election coverage, while refusing to endorse candidates that weren’t pro-choice.
“We don’t need Cosmo to do the same thing the Democrat political operatives do and stereotype women as a voting bloc that doesn’t care about the economy, national debt, immigration, or foreign policy,” Day wrote. “I was also disappointed when Cosmo said they won’t endorse any candidate who doesn’t meet their litmus test on abortion. Again, they are perpetuating the stereotype that women only care about a narrow set of ‘women’s issues’ and have only one opinion on them.”
RNC chairman Kirsten Kukowski said of these initiatives in an email late Thursday that party sought to “correct the record” on the Democrats’ “campaign to mislead voters.” She added that the party was also working on a lot of get-out-the-vote efforts with women. ”We’ve been making a concerted effort all cycle,” she said.
Day’s column came on the heels of a web video “Women of the GOP” posted Wednesday. The RNC-produced video flashes soft focus images of female Republican candidates up for election this November set to motivational music, overlaid with words like “empowerment” and “motivate.”
“This year, Republican women are taking back the future,” the female narrator says in the spot.
The GOP does have a number of high-profile female candidates on the ballot this November–Iowa’s Joni Ernst and Oregon’s Monica Wehby for instance–but they’re far behind the Democratic party when it comes to recruiting, running, and electing women to office. The GOP trails far behind Democrats with the number of women they elect to state legislatures and Congress.
In November, two times as many women will be on the ballot as Democrats than Republicans, according to Rutger’s Center for Women in Politics.
“They’re losing women voters and they can’t lose women voters by the percentages they’re losing them and win elections,” EMILY’s List president Stephanie Schriock told msnbc. “Now they’re realizing it.”
She said the GOP is appealing to women “even though they haven’t changed their policies.”
Earlier this week, two Republican candidates fought back against criticism that they’re anti-women, in bold, direct-to-camera ads, the kind usually reserved for addressing big scandals.
In Wisconsin, Republican Gov. Scott Walker is fending off a challenge from a female candidate, Mary Burke, and under fire for abortion legislation—namely a 2013 bill that’s currently held up in courts—to restrict abortion providers and require women to get an ultrasound before getting an abortion.
His short ad, “Decision” portrays him to be distinctly softer on the issue, arguing that his legislation simply gives women more information and protects her safety, but leaves the final decision to “a woman and her doctor.” It’s pretty different from the 2010 remarks EMILY’s List used in a recent media blitz, where Walker tells reporters he’d like to outlaw abortion completely, even in cases of rape, incest, and when it threatens the mother’s life.
A Marquette University Law School poll released last week saw that Walker’s fears of alienating women are founded: Walker’s up 28 points with men, but Burke leads with women by 14 points.
In New Hampshire, Scott Brown–who is similarly struggling with women–came out with a similar ad, pushing back on Democratic incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s ad, which said Brown pushed for legislation that would “forced” women considering an abortion to look at color photos of developing fetuses. (Brown insisted in a press conference the bill didn’t force women to look at anything—though it did actually require doctors to give patients considering abortion color photos of developing fetuses—arguing that they could throw these materials out.)
“I want you to know the facts. I’m pro choice, I support continued funding for Planned Parenthood, and I believe women should have contraception,” Brown said in his response spot. “Sen. Shaheen has resorted to a smear campaign to distract voters from her record.”
The ad largely dodges the accusations, but Brown’s ad–like Walker’s–signal just how damaging the campaigns feel these criticisms will be for the midterms. EMILY’s List spokesman Marcy Stech noted that the ads looked familiar: in 2012, Akin apologized with a similar ad.
EMILY’s List has since reduced their own ad parodying the Republicans’ latest attempt at outreach;