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GOP lacks female candidates for president

By SCOTT CONROY RealClearPolitics

This article was published August 3, 2014 at 2:14 a.m.

The wide-open fight for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination appears certain to showcase a range of credible candidates, who differ from one another in both style and substance.

What the next crop of top-tier GOP contenders may not feature, however, is a woman.

The Republicans taking discernible steps to build the foundations required for White House runs are all men. And for a party trying to close the gender gap, the prospect of an all-male lineup may pose a significant public perception problem.

After the 2012 race saw President Obama defeat Mitt Romney by a double-digit margin among women, one way in which national Republicans have been aiming to do better has been by promoting some of their female rising stars.

Two governors--New Mexico's Susana Martinez and South Carolina's Nikki Haley--are frequently mentioned as vice-presidential material. Additionally, New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who delivered the Republican response to the president's 2014 State of the Union address, have also been singled out as solid national prospects.

But none of these women has begun to build the kind of fundraising network and political operation required to mount a serious bid for the Oval Office.

With Hillary Clinton the runaway favorite to become the Democrats' next standard-bearer (and the first-ever female nominee from a major party), a concern that the GOP race will be perceived as a men's-only affair is all the more glaring.

"It worries me because we want a woman who reflects our principles and values to be running for president," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a group that promotes female candidates who oppose abortion. "I'm worried that we don't have that at this particular moment when there's so much conversation about what it means to be supportive of women."

Even if Clinton decides against a second presidential run, the Democrats are likely to boast at least one female candidate in their field of contenders. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar has signaled interest in running, and both Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand might also join the race.

But on the Republican side, the pickings are far slimmer.

Michele Bachmann told RCP last month that she would consider running for president again, but after her 2012 presidential bid ended abruptly with a deflating sixth-place finish in Iowa, the outgoing Minnesota congresswoman would struggle this time to be viewed as a legitimate contender.

Still, Bachmann believes it is too early to say the Republican field won't include a serious female candidate, noting that the only woman on either party's ticket in the 2008 general election was on the GOP side: former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

"It's entirely possible that we'll have a very strong bench of women who decide to put their name in," Bachmann said.

Last spring, Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn indicated through a member of her staff that she might be persuaded to join the race. An aide told RCP, "If there's a door to kick down, she's willing to kick it down."

But Blackburn has not taken visible steps toward mounting a campaign, and she would be a long-shot prospect if she did enter the race.

Dana Perino, who, under George W. Bush, served as the first female White House press secretary to a Republican president, predicted that Democrats would try to make an issue of the absence of a Republican woman in the presidential mix.

But Perino also singled out Martinez, Haley and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin as leaders who have the potential to reach the national stage.

"I think it's not entirely a bad thing for some of the women who could have great futures in higher office to continue to focus and do a really good job in their states," she said. "So I don't think any woman is going to magically appear in 2016 on the Republican ticket, but I do think they're being smart in setting up some ways to have a platform to run on."

As the 2008 campaign demonstrated, the placement of a woman on the Republican ticket does not necessarily mean that more female votes will follow.

And GOP operatives remain confident that disappointment with the Obama administration will lead to gains among both genders across the board this November and beyond.

New Hampshire Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Horn said the possibility of an all-male Republican presidential slate doesn't concern her "at all."

"The field has a lot of time to shape up still, but I don't think voters are concerned about whether they're voting for a man or woman," Horn said. "I think they're deeply concerned about whether they're qualified to lead the country."

As the midterm elections approach, Democrats have continued to trumpet the charge that Republicans who don't support an equal pay law, unfettered access to birth control and abortion are waging a "war on women." And new evidence demonstrates why they believe this strategy, which helped to re-elect President Obama, is potentially an effective one.

A poll conducted in a dozen Senate battleground states and released on July 22 by the Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research had Democrats trailing Republicans overall by a 46 percent to 44 percent margin. Additionally, the survey showed that Democrats' once massive 20-point advantage among single women had been cut almost in half from 2010 to an 11-point lead now.

But the same poll also showed this margin jumping back up to 20 points when unmarried women were presented with campaign messaging that is "aimed at their lives," code for the kinds of issues that Democrats pushed vigorously in 2012.

"I think there's a high likelihood that issues women care about are going to be perceived as under-addressed by the Republican Party, but I don't think we actually need female candidates to address issues that women care about," said Hoover Institute fellow Kori Schake, who was a senior policy adviser on the McCain/Palin campaign. "We as a party don't do a very good job of talking about the issues that are predominant for most women, and we don't talk about it in a language that's inviting."

Editorial on 08/03/2014

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Nodmcm says... August 3, 2014 at 9:15 a.m.

Republicans, in their hearts, really want a white, male president. Republicans believe that men and women are very different, and that men have leadership abilities that are lacking in women. Republicans believe women are nurturers, by nature willing to compromise and work with others, whereas men are fighters, decisive and often unwilling to compromise. Recall that the recent incarnation of the very conservative Republican party is totally against compromise in the pursuit of its goals. Finally, the "war on women" is not over, because many liberal women believe they have the absolute right to control their reproductive systems, even if to do so damages society. Republicans couldn't disagree more, and take the position that women's reproductive systems belong to society, due to the necessity to reproduce the species. Women must, under conservative doctrine, subjugate their personal goals and ambitions to their 'natural role' as mothers. Thus, to run a woman for president would cast a narrative, that of a woman placing children and family second to a job, the presidency, that the Republican conservatives do not want to promote. If women's place is in the home, then it is surely not in the War Room in a bunker at the White House as Commander in Chief.

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DontDrinkDatKoolAid says... August 3, 2014 at 9:30 a.m.

I have at this time can not believe the $hit talk of this column nor the first poster here. What is needed, gender and race aside is leadership in defending the foundation of our country.
We have not had a President that has done that since Ronald Reagan.

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Nodmcm says... August 3, 2014 at 10:01 a.m.

To briefly respond to DDDKA:
1. The Foundation of America is to deny women the right to vote or own property. Women were not allowed to own property until the late 1800s and women were not allowed to vote until 1920. You want to take away women's right to vote, and that is completely understandable because you want to go back to the 1800s, apparently.
2. Ronald Reagan was a traitor who sold weapons systems to our arch enemy, the Islamic Republic of Iraq, which had just committed an act of war against America by invading our embassy in Tehran. Reagan might as well have worn a turban while holding a Quran and had his picture taken with Ayatollah Khomeini. Can we call Ronnie, "Ayatollah Reagan?"

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DontDrinkDatKoolAid says... August 3, 2014 at 11:24 a.m.

Show us a law of what you speak.
Of what you speak here, the country would be Iran. Iran and the United States at the time were not in a declared war, understanding an act of war by radicals had transpired. Tell us, what “weapons systems” were sold for peace, and those hostages.

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Populist says... August 3, 2014 at 12:13 p.m.

If the Republicans nominated Senator Susan Collins from Maine, she would clobber any Democrat. She is up for reelection and leading her Democratic opponent by about 50 points. Republicans, however, will not nominate her because she is pro-choice. Lisa Murkowski from Alaska would be another plausible choice. However, she holds similar views on abortion. If McCain had picked Olympia Snowe instead of Sarah Palin, he would have won. The Republicans just will not consider anybody who supports early term abortion even if they favor restrictions later in the term.

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DontDrinkDatKoolAid says... August 3, 2014 at 12:24 p.m.

Pop, those of who speak of, have no leadership. Oh they be liked, but still no leadership.

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Populist says... August 3, 2014 at 1:22 p.m.


Why do you think that? Collins and Murkowski were two of the people most responsible for ending the government shutdown. Collins has been a leader on education issues and homeland security. I think that you are confusing leadership with being rude and far to the right.

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3rdWorldState says... August 3, 2014 at 1:26 p.m.

Reagan. That's funny. If he ran today he would be a called a rhino, and for the tea party a socialist hell bent on taking our guns. You people are jokes.

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