Charge of GOP women brigade Repub­li­cans look at mis­takes of past to map out a more suc­cess­ful fu­ture

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY RALPH Z. HAL­LOW AND SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

Repub­li­cans are mov­ing this week to con­front some of their big­gest prob­lems from 2012, in­clud­ing chang­ing their pri­mary and con­ven­tion sched­ules to gain a fundrais­ing ad­van­tage and high­light­ing ris­ing women within their party — a de­mo­graphic they strug­gled with in the last pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

The rules change, which the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee is ex­pected to rat­ify Fri­day, would move the party’s pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nat­ing con­ven­tion to the end of June, two months ear­lier than the past few con­ven­tions. The changes also would try to get states to stretch out their pri­maries and cau­cuses, which would pre­serve Iowa, New Hamp­shire and South Carolina as the ear­li­est con­tests and give vot­ers in other states more time to look over the can­di­dates.

“Our party un­der­stands we need to help our can­di­date be in the best po­si­tion pos­si­ble for the fall gen­eral elec­tion — by al­low­ing all the con­tenders to com­pete in a nom­i­na­tion con­test with a clear be­gin­ning and end date,” said Colorado RNC mem­ber Ryan Call.

Stung by pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Mitt Rom­ney’s de­feat in 2012, in a race many party strate­gists thought was winnable, Repub­li­cans have vowed to learn lessons and change their op­er­a­tions.

Some of the changes are struc­tural, in­clud­ing the tim­ing of the pri­maries and con­ven­tions, while oth­ers in­volve mes­sag­ing.

In par­tic­u­lar, the GOP said Mr. Rom­ney’s cam­paign failed to reach mi­nor­ity vot­ers or women, and Pres­i­dent Obama cap­i­tal­ized, win­ning a sec­ond term be­hind a cam­paign that ar­gued Repub­li­cans were en­gaged in a “war on women” and were hos­tile to His­pan­ics’ key is­sues.

“The fact is that the Repub­li­cans don’t have a war on women,” for­mer Arkansas Gov. Mike Huck­abee said at a lunchtime speech at the RNC’s win­ter meet­ing in Wash­ing­ton. “They have a war for women — for them to be em­pow­ered, for them to be some­thing other than vic­tims of their gen­der. Women I know are out­raged that Democrats think that women are noth­ing more than help­less and hope­less crea­tures whose only goal in life is to have the gov­ern­ment pro­vide for their birth con­trol med­i­ca­tion.”

Mr. Huck­abee said Demo­cratic poli­cies im­ply that women “can­not con­trol their li­bido or their re­pro­duc­tive sys­tem with­out the help of the gov­ern­ment.”

Democrats mocked the GOP’s out­reach ef­fort.

“Mike Huck­abee has no idea what he’s talk­ing about. If this is the GOP re­brand a year later, then all they’ve got­ten is a year older,” said Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee Chair­woman Deb­bie Wasser­man Schultz.

But Repub­li­cans made clear that they would make ma­jor ef­forts to reach fe­male vot­ers.

The party’s elected con­gres­sional lead­ers an­nounced Thurs­day that Rep. Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers, chair­woman of the House Repub­li­can Con­fer­ence, will de­liver the of­fi­cial Repub­li­can re­sponse to Mr. Obama’s State of the Union ad­dress next week.

RNC Chair­man Reince Priebus hosted a “ris­ing stars” panel Thurs­day that fea­tured only women — five con­ser­va­tives from across the coun­try who said the party must stick to its pro-life prin­ci­ples, pro­mote a mes­sage of eco­nomic pros­per­ity for all and em­brace im­mi­gra­tion re­form.

One of the women, con­ser­va­tive ac­tivist Ali­son Howard, said Democrats make a mis­take by try­ing to nar­row fe­male vot­ers’ con­cerns to abor­tion, leav­ing the GOP an op­por­tu­nity to talk about a whole spec­trum of other is­sues.

“Women make the ma­jor­ity of the eco­nomic de­ci­sions in their house­holds and right now are mak­ing a ma­jor­ity of their health care de­ci­sion as well,” she said. “I think it is most im­por­tant for con­ser­va­tives to talk to women as the smart, in­tel­li­gent, pur­pose-driven peo­ple that we are. We care about so much more than the left presents to us.”

Chelsi Henry, an aide to the chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer of Florida, said she is liv­ing proof that con­ser­va­tive poli­cies work. Born to a 16-year-old woman on wel­fare, she said her mother could have cho­sen to have an abor­tion but didn’t. “She chose life,” Ms. Henry said. “So for that, I am eter­nally grate­ful to her.”

Kim­berly Yee, an Ari­zona se­na­tor, said Repub­li­cans shouldn’t re­treat on the party’s pro-life stance.

“I think that is re­ally a mes­sage that we should be proud of and we should be will­ing to share be­cause it does res­onate among fam­i­lies,” Mrs. Yee said, adding that it is also im­por­tant for the party to stand up for the sanc­tity of tra­di­tional mar­riage. “It is about keep­ing tra­di­tional val­ues that we hold near and dear to our heart.”

RNC mem­bers sig­naled their com­mit­ment to the pro-life side of the abor­tion de­bate Wed­nes­day when they carved time out of their meet­ings to al­low mem­bers to at­tend the March for Life on the Mall.

The 168-mem­ber RNC be­gan its meet­ing Wed­nes­day and will con­tinue through Satur­day.

Its new cam­paign cal­en­dar would al­low four “carve-out” states — Iowa, New Hamp­shire, South Carolina and Ne­vada — to hold their con­tests any­time they want in Fe­bru­ary, with the un­der­stand­ing that Iowa could hold its cau­cuses first.

There must be a two-week hia­tus be­fore any other state holds a pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion con­test. Vi­o­la­tors will be pun­ished by hav­ing their del­e­ga­tions to the na­tional pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nat­ing con­ven­tion re­duced to prac­ti­cally noth­ing. Cur­rently they are re­duced by half.

Un­der the new rules, a state that is sup­posed to get more than 29 del­e­gates would be lim­ited to 12. Malfeasant states with smaller pop­u­la­tions would have just nine del­e­gates.

Mil­lie Hal­low of Mary­land (center) shares a laugh with RNC Chair­man Reince Priebus (right) and Mike Huck­abee (left) dur­ing lunch at the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee’s an­nual win­ter meet­ing in Wash­ing­ton on Thurs­day.

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