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Republican Men Get Lessons in Running Against Women

Thursday, 05 Dec 2013 11:05 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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Republicans in the House and the Senate are going back to school to learn what to say on the campaign trail when they are running against women.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is desperate to avoid the type of shocking foot-in-mouth comments made by Todd Akin that made the GOP appear as though it's "anti-woman," according to Politico.

House Speaker John Boehner is also having his aides meet with Republican staff members to talk about how lawmakers should be addressing female constituents during their campaigns, particularly on sensitive women's issues.

The NRCC has been holding several sessions with aides to GOP incumbents to give them lessons in "messaging against women opponents," according to one GOP aide.

Story continues below video.



The problems were highlighted in Akin's "legitimate rape" comment during the 2012 Missouri Senate race, which caused a storm of protest from women and immediately wrecked what appeared to be a good chance of victory.

The controversy also sparked accusations from Democrats of a GOP "war on women" that plagued the campaigns of many other Republicans.

In the midterm elections next year, House Republicans will be facing at least 10 female Democratic candidates, including high-profile races in New York, Illinois, Florida and Virginia. In fact, Virginia's GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli was recently defeated partially due to suggestions that he was anti-woman.

There have been other incidents of late that have made Republicans appear as though they are insensitive to female constituents, such as Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) blaming military sexual assaults on "hormones" and Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) talking about rape and pregnancy at a Judiciary Committee hearing earlier this year.

"Let me put it this way, some of these guys have a lot to learn," said a Republican staffer who attended a recent how-to-talk-to-women schooling session in Boehner’s office, says Politico.

Republicans may have taken note of the startling statistics over the so-called gender gap between the Democratic and Republican parties when it comes to women voters.

Mitt Romney lost women voters to President Barack Obama by a staggering 11 points in the 2012 election while recent polls have concluded that Democratic candidates continue to hold a double-digit lead among women, with the figure climbing steeply among single women voters.

Republicans were soundly beaten among female voters in every close Senate race in 2012, and had an unfavorability rating of 63 percent among women, according to a recent ABC/Washington Post poll.

But GOP incumbents are starting to listen to criticism that they appear tone-deaf on women's issues. For instance, Rep. Scott Rigell, who won his Virginia seat last time by just about 1,000 votes, is planning to concentrate on issues that benefit the "full fabric of our communities" while running against a Democratic woman next year.

He said, "As part of that we’re strengthening things that are important to women, and to men as well early childhood education, making sure that our children are safe and they have great opportunities once they get out of high school or college."

In the House, there are 78 female lawmakers with 59 of them Democrats, which translates to 19 out of the 231 House GOP members. In the Senate, there are a record 20 women senators, although only four of them are Republicans.

Rep. Ann Wagner, a Missouri Republican, is hoping to sign up more women to run for the GOP in Congress, which she believes could result in more female votes for the party.

Explaining that women are vital to the elections because they make up the majority of potential voters, she said: "We’re 54 percent of the electorate. We rule. We decide the elections going forward. We decide a lot of things."

And as for the lack of Republican women in Congress, she added: "It’s a failure and one that absolutely must be addressed."

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