In the 2012 election cycle, Democrats rallied around a Republican “war on women” narrative that often went without effective pushback from the GOP and arguably – combined with a far more sophisticated ground game – handed them control of the Senate, if not the White House.
But on Monday, former Hewlett Packard CEO and 2010 California GOP Senate nominee Carly Fiorina will launch a new super PAC to focus on both issues, Breitbart News has learned.
The UP Project, which stands for “Unlocking Potential,” will seek to help Republicans win back the Senate by directly confronting Democrats and their “war on women” narrative.
But unlike other super PACs, the UP Project will not do battle on TV. Instead, the PAC will solely focus on the ground game, organizing and mobilizing grassroots networks, especially of women, that can help Republicans win the messaging battle woman-to-woman and neighbor-to-neighbor.
“We need to name and shame Democrats who play the ‘war on women’ game,” Fiorina told Breitbart News. “Too often, Republicans have allowed the label to stick because of a misguided theory that by ignoring a charge it just goes away…We need to organize strong conservative activists, especially women, and energize them to take action on behalf of our conservative principles. Women make up half this country. The UP Project is no longer going to allow Democrats to pretend we are single-issue voters.”
The UP Project will hit the ground running Monday in six key swing states — Colorado, Michigan, Iowa, North Carolina, Virginia, and New Hampshire — that will help determine which party controls the Senate. The super PAC, which expects to have raised over $1 million by July 15th, will also recruit and develop field staff, build lists, and launch its rapid response operation this week.
Fiorina, who is now the Chairwoman of the American Conservative Union (ACU) Foundation and an ACU board member, pointed out that during the 2010 midterm elections, the Tea Party refused to let Democrats define and take advantage of conservatives, especially on women’s issues. Fiorina said her PAC is “drawing a tremendous amount of inspiration from” from the Tea Party movement in 2010, which was fueled largely by women at the grassroots level, that gave the House GOP back its power.
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and her “Mama Grizzlies” galvanized the Tea Party movement in 2010, and it also helped Republicans at the state level as well. South Carolina’s Nikki Haley and New Mexico’s Susana Martinez, for instance, would not be in office without Palin’s endorsement. Palin also endorsed Fiorina, which helped her win the Senate primary in California before she lost to incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA). During that campaign, Boxer and her allies, in a race that may have previewed the “war on women” rhetoric that the Obama campaign would relentlessly exploit two years later, hammered Fiorina, a cancer survivor, as someone who would be “bad for women.”
In battleground Congressional districts, recent polling has shown that “only 25% of women in these districts believe the country is headed in the right direction, while 67% say it’s on the wrong track.” In addition, a majority (53%) of women disapprove of Obama’s job performance and 55% of women oppose Obamacare.
Fiorina says women voters have more complicated priorities than the volatile debates over abortion and rape attest. “What women care most about are jobs and a lack of opportunity for themselves and for their families,” she said. As she has traveled the country, women have have told her, “We are half the country” and, “We care about more than what Democrats derisively call ‘women’s issues.'”
But her unsuccessful campaign against Boxer made her realize how tough it was for more broader issues to stick when a candidate has to spend a lot of her time routinely fending off “insulting charges that Republicans were engaged” in the so-called “war on women.” Bernie Quigley referred to as Fiorina as a “true west conservative” for being pro-life, for the Second Amendment, and against blanket amnesty for illegal immigrants, and those types of conservative women face even more heat from the left and a mainstream media that often helps Democrats amplify their attacks.
“I realized a crucial need for an apparatus to push back against this absurdity, and to defend our conservative principles when they are under attack,” Fiorina said, emphasizing that “liberals and Democrats fear nothing more than mobilized, articulate conservative women.”
In key states like Ohio, Virginia, and Colorado, Republicans lacked such an apparatus in 2012, and Democrats and the Obama campaign ran circles around Republicans on the ground, despite vast amounts of money spent. Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, for instance, spent over $100 million in the 2012 cycle but candidates in Wisconsin, Virginia and other states faltered.
With the “war on women” attack playing a key role in Democrat gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe victory in Virginia in 2013, Democrats are likely to keep returning to the tactic in 2014 and beyond.
Fiorina hopes that the UP Project can challenge Democrats in six states this year by building “a strong network of engaged women who will stand up for conservative solutions and say, ‘we’re tired of Liberal Democrats insulting us by thinking we’re single issue voters, and that all we care about are reproductive rights.'”
In North Carolina (Thom Tillis vs. Sen. Kay Hagan) and New Hampshire (Scott Brown vs. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen), GOP men are challenging two incumbent Democrat women.
In Colorado (Rep. Cory Gardner vs. Sen. Mark Udall) and Virginia (Ed Gillespie vs. Sen. Mark Warner), two Republican men are challenging incumbent Democrat men in states in which national Democrats have vigorously played the “war on women” card in the past.
And in Michigan and Iowa, two Republican women are facing off against Democrat men for open seats. In Michigan, Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI) faces Terri Lynn Land. And in what may be one of the marquee races of this cycle, Republican Joni Ernst, the Iraq War veteran who grew up on a farm castrating hogs, faces Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) in Iowa. Ernst received the support of Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney, with Palin specifically mentioning that Democrats would not be able to play the “war on women” card on Ernst in the general election.
The UP Project, as Fiorina says, hopes to ultimately organize “a network of conservative activists at the grassroots level with an aim toward developing a bigger, broader base of support for Republican nominees.” But it also seeks to put forth new messengers who can have those “real conversations” with women who may have become disillusioned with more establishment organizations while also convincing nonpartisan women to vote for Republican candidates.
In that sense, the PAC will compliment the work of campaigns and the other super PACs that will saturate the airwaves.
“Sometimes as conservatives we speak about high level principles and policies. We need to connect these in very personal terms to women’s lives,” Fiorina said. “Organization matters. People matter. Too many consultant-driven Republican organizations forget that.”
If successful, the PAC’s work can have a spillover effect for down-ballot candidates and be a lightbulb moment for big-time GOP donors, who may be convinced to invest in long-term strategies that build networks of voters instead of just solely in splashy television commercials. More patience will be required on the front end, but investing in the ground game could pay more dividends down the line, especially if it makes it easier for Republicans to combat the “war on women” rhetoric and make Democrats think twice before going back to something that has been played out.
And if more women are convincingly speaking to others, as Fiorina says, in “personal terms about why conservative principles work,” perhaps the groundwork could be put in place for Fiorina to even benefit down the line.
“I try to never close the door on anything in life,” she said when asked if she would ever run for office again. But she noted that at the current time her focus, with the UP Project, is on “sharing our conservative vision with women in key states, and to putting an end to the era of Obama.”