‘War on Women’ Narrative Flops as Republicans Refine Messaging

‘War on Women’ Narrative Flops as Republicans Refine Messaging

Those on the left previously sought to win elections by pandering to single women voters — but that hat trick may not be so effective anymore. Thanks in part to savvy female political consultants, Republican candidates are learning how to show women that conservatives offer better, more sound solutions for the females of all walks of life. 

During recent elections, standard procedure among many Democrat candidates has been to paint Republican opponents as waging a “war on women” by hyper-focusing on issues like birth control and abortion. 

To combat this messaging, the Republican consulting firm Burning Glass Consulting was formed. The firm has begun to successfully help conservative candidates reach out to women with winning solutions. The group was formed by Katie Packer Gage, Mitt Romney’s former deputy campaign manager, and Ashley O’Connor, his former ad director.

The left largely attempted to portray Romney and his platform as being anti-women — but those notions are the absurd product of political marketing, Packer Gage told New York Magazine. She said, “He wasn’t this old caveman. There were lots of good things he was saying, but women weren’t hearing it because Democrats were basically lying about him more effectively than we were telling the truth.”

The duo, along with pollster Christine Matthews, encourage Republican candidates to respond directly to attacks and appeal to women voters by highlighting critical issues other than birth control and abortion. The mammoth government debt, for instance, affects all Americans — both female and male — but Democrat candidates would lead voters to believe that women do not care about this issue.  

Gage told New York Magazine, “Campaigns largely over the last 50 years have been run by men, to elect men, by communicating to men. It ignores the fact that 53 percent of the electorate is women. We said, ‘What would we do differently on campaigns if we were talking only to women?'”

The Democrats’ war on women narrative failed for many candidates in 2014, as voters realized that Republicans offered more substantive solutions. For example, Wendy Davis — the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Texas — ran a campaign that focused almost exclusively on women’s votes. Rather than earning the respect of women, however, her campaign largely came off as forced, manipulative, and riddled with cheap cliches.

Davis was largely rejected by the electorate — her opponent, Attorney General Greg Abbott steamrolled her on November 4 as she received only 39 percent of the vote. 

Democratic Senator Mark Udall of Colorado also lost in November after his campaign turned off women voters by almost exclusively spotlighting abortion to obtain votes from single women. Bloomberg columnist  called Udall a “one-joke candidate” and wrote in a column that women “know what we don’t want, and that is to be treated like ninnies, the sum of our body parts, captives of gender….If you are trying so hard to pander to us on one thing, it’s because you are assuming we are one-issue simpletons who won’t penalize you for ignoring all of the other things we care about. Turn me into a Barbie doll voter, and I will turn on you.” 

Moving forward, Republicans must prove to the public that they can follow through on their promises, and that their policies provide opportunity to all females. Conservatives’ rhetoric, as well as the policies they promote, during the next two years will determine whether or not they can capture the female vote in 2016.

Follow Kristin on Twitter @KristinBTate


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