1 | Kelly Ayotte
U.S. senator from New Hampshire
As New Hampshire’s first female attorney general, Ayotte, 45, is comfortable in the rough-and-tumble of politics. Among the political glitterati who flocked to support her 2010 campaign for the U.S. Senate: Sen. John McCain, Sarah Palin, and future presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.
Ayotte won by a landslide, announcing her formidable arrival on the national political scene. And she’s delivered an impressive performance in the upper chamber ever since. Her support for the right to bear arms drew the ire of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose Mayors Against Illegal Guns group shelled out nearly $2 million in attack ads against her.
But Bloomberg’s attacks backfired, with at least one mayor resigning from the group in protest. “You know you’re doing something right when you have the left coming after you with full force and vigor,” comments GOP political-law expert Cleta Mitchell. “She has a very bright future.” Ayotte drew heat from grass-roots conservatives who supported her in 2010 with her support for immigration reform. But none of that has diminished the perception of Ayotte as an emerging force. “Sen. Ayotte has a lot of potential,” says University of Virginia Center for Politics Director Dr. Larry Sabato.
2 | Sarah Palin Former Alaska governor
Since resigning as Alaska’s governor in July 2009, Palin, 49, has reinvented herself as a best-selling author, commentator, and speaker. She still holds sway with evangelical women, and her endorsements in GOP primaries reflect an ability to back winning candidates. Of course, Palin’s name is continually linked to political office. But given the influence she already wields, why would she accept a demotion?
As a conservative speaker, Palin sets the gold standard for attracting big audiences. In June, she returned to Fox News as a regular contributor, which will give her an even bigger platform to call out Republicans tempted to stray from the grass-roots orthodoxy. Although the left has continually campaigned to drive up her negatives, a single Palin tweet or Facebook post can still shake up the political landscape.
3 | Cathy McMorris Rodgers Chair of the House Republican Congress
McMorris Rodgers, 44, is often seen standing at Speaker John Boehner’s side as he delivers his broadsides against the Obama administration. As the chairman of the House Republican Conference, she holds the No. 4 position in the House leadership hierarchy. That makes her one of the most powerful Republican women on Capitol Hill.
During her time in Congress, McMorris Rodgers, a mother of two, has been an advocate of workplace flexibility for women. She took a lead role in winning House passage of the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013. But she assures Newsmax the best is yet to come. “We’re working hard to encourage more women to run for office at the local, state and national levels,” she says, “and to remind them that their input here could help so many Americans across the country.”
6 | Susan Collins U.S. senator from Maine
Collins, 60, is considered one of the last of an endangered species — a Northeastern Republican moderate. As such, she prides herself on bipartisan compromise and has been known to frustrate the Republican base with her positions on social issues like gay marriage. Collins voted in favor of President Obama’s massive stimulus plan, but opposed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. She has a long history of being a staunch fiscal conservative true to her Yankees roots, and has been an advocate of a balanced budget amendment.
Collins currently serves on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, the Select Committee on Intelligence, and is ranking member of the Senate’s Special Committee on Aging. She also doesn’t mind taking on Obama. Speaking on Benghazi in May she told CNN U.S. military help “could have been sent in time to save the further deaths.”
4 | Condoleezza Rice Former U.S. secretary of state
As the nation’s first female African-American secretary of state, Rice, 58, played a key role in counterbalancing the stauncher neoconservatives in George W. Bush’s administration. Although she will probably never be a favorite of social conservatives — she once described herself as “mildly pro-choice” — Rice has frequently been mentioned as a strong prospect to serve on a national ticket.
Fueling that speculation was her remark at the 2012 Convention that her parents had raised their little girl to believe “she can be the president of the United States.”
Whether Rice is really prepared to leave Stanford University for the ground-and-pound of politics remains to be seen. But with her extraordinary resume, it is a safe bet that Rice will continue to inspire a generation of women leaders.
5 | Susana Martinez Governor of New Mexico
Martinez, 54, is the first female Hispanic governor in U.S. history. Like many of the women on our list, she began her political career as a state prosecutor. She was named New Mexico Prosecutor of the Year in March 2010, and survived a hard-fought GOP gubernatorial primary in part thanks to an endorsement from Palin. She was elected governor that November.
Martinez scored major points at the 2012 GOP convention in Tampa, serving up a rousing stem-winder that propelled her further into the national political limelight. Since then, her supporters have been tamping down speculation she might run for president in 2016, pointing out that she faces a gubernatorial re-election campaign in 2014. Sabato predicts she’ll win a second term, despite the fact that New Mexico is trending Democratic. Bottom line: In a party that desperately needs more cachet with women and more Hispanics, Martinez’s prospects appear bright indeed.
7 | Elaine L. Chao Former secretary of labor
Former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao’s long list of influential contacts inside the Beltway begins with none other than the senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, who just happens to be her husband. Together, the D.C. power couple casts a formidable shadow.
Chao, 60, was the first Asian-American woman in U.S. history to assume a Cabinet position — a job she held throughout the administration of George W. Bush.
Today, Chao is a distinguished fellow at the Heritage Foundation think tank, has received 34 honorary degrees, and is a sought-after speaker at conservative events. She arrived in America at age 8 unable to speak English — an extraordinary example of the American dream that she aims to preserve for future generations.
8 | Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Member, House of Representatives
One measure of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s political gifts: In her 10 full terms in Congress, she never failed to garner at least 58 percent of the vote. As the first Cuban-American and the first Hispanic woman to serve in the United States Congress, she’s also a trailblazer.
She was a child when her family fled Castro’s Cuba. Now 61, she is an outspoken Castro opponent, and a redoubtable advocate for a strong American foreign policy. She is the former chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and, due to rotation, now chairs the powerful subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa. She also serves as a member of the House Committee on Rules.
Ros-Lehtinen says Republicans lost the women’s vote “through our own incompetence.” But she expresses confidence women can be wooed back to the party, noting women are opening new businesses in large numbers. When you become a business owner, she says, “you understand the meaning of what our GOP is all about."
9 | Cleta Mitchell Political-law attorney
Often described as a “GOP superlawyer,” Mitchell, 62, is an expert on political law, practicing with legal giant Foley & Lardner. Given the myriad legal issues related to campaign finances, this places her where the interests of candidates and well-heeled donors intersect.
Most of her work happens behind the scenes, but she recently emerged as a strong advocate representing grass-roots clients damaged by the IRS targeting scandal, such as True the Vote’s Catherine Engelbrecht. A former member of the Oklahoma state legislature, Mitchell has testified before Congress on several occasions.
10 | Nikki R. Haley Governor of South Carolina
Haley, 41, is considered a darling of the tea party movement, and is one of the up-and-coming conservative women leaders whose campaign got a boost from a well-timed Sarah Palin endorsement. Haley is considered one of South Carolina’s leading fiscal conservatives, and in November 2010, she became the first woman elected governor of the Palmetto State.
She has blasted President Obama for his silence on NLRB interference with Boeing’s decision to open a Dreamliner 787 production line in right-to-work South Carolina. Although her job-approval numbers are iffy — an April poll by Winthrop showed her at 43.5 percent approval — she continues to focus on job creation, and the rebounding economy should help.
Haley knows she has some work to do, and pro-Haley ads already are running on South Carolina airwaves. She probably won’t have a shortage of campaign cash — business and entertainment mogul Donald Trump and businessman Foster Friess are said to be among her influential supporters.
11 | Diane Black Member, House of Representatives
A former registered nurse and longtime member of the Tennessee state legislature, Black, 62, has leveraged her understanding of the nation’s healthcare system since winning election to Congress in 2010.
She discovered a loophole in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that would have enabled middle-class Americans to qualify for Medicaid. Her legislation based on that revelation became the first bill signed into law to repeal a provision of President Obama’s healthcare reforms. She urges Republicans to “continue to grow the ranks of Republican women in elected leadership across the country, and ensure that our message of limited government, more freedom, and opportunity is reaching all Americans.”
12 | Peggy Noonan Author, Columnist, Commentator
In a world where partisan clashes among talking heads typically generate more fog than illumination, Peggy Noonan, 62, has distinguished herself for over three decades as one of the most thoughtful conservatives on the national scene. Her Wall Street Journal columns consistently provide an informed, intelligent defense of conservative ideals, and more often than not reflect a deft literary panache. Her conservative bona fides date back to her service as a special assistant to President Ronald Reagan from 1984 to 1988. She served as chief speechwriter for George H.W. Bush’s presidential run.
She also serves as a member of the board of one of conservatism’s great think-tank bastions, the Manhattan Institute. Her most recent book is John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father.
13 | Meg Whitman President and CEO, Hewlett-Packard Co.
Whitman, who turns 57 this month, is that rare figure able to comfortably shift between the realms of business and politics. Currently she’s busy resurrecting the fortunes of Hewlett-Packard, trimming corporate debt by some $1.8 billion.
She took over the helm at HP after spending $144 million of her own money in a failed 2010 bid to keep California’s governorship in Republican hands. Her management acumen appears irrefutable: During her term as CEO of eBay from 1998 to 2008, company revenues grew from $4 million per year to $8 billion. But she also has kept her hand in politics, endorsing Mitt Romney during the 2012 GOP primaries.
Whitman’s greatest skill, associates say, may be her ability to inspire a strong culture of team building. Many observers believe it is only a matter of time before Whitman is asked to put together a winning team at some level in Washington.
14 | Liz Cheney Former Deputy Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
Most political analysts think it’s only a matter of time before the eldest daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney runs for office. When she does, voters can expect the same unswerving defense of conservative principles they saw from her father.
Last year, Cheney, 47, moved from Northern Virginia to the Jackson, Wyo., area. That triggered speculation she was laying the groundwork to run for the U.S. Senate. In April, incumbent GOP Sen. Mike Enzi, 69, indicated he would run for re-election. But that hasn’t stopped a California-based political action committee, One Nation, from launching a petition drive to urge Cheney to throw her hat in the ring. Cheney held several State Department positions in the George W. Bush administration. She is currently a commentator for Fox News.
15 | Mary Fallin Governor of Oklahoma
Fallin, 58, earned strong praise for her response to the devastating, massive tornados that struck Moore, Okla., consoling the survivors while also demanding that federal authorities cut through the red tape to provide assistance.
“Will we be back? Absolutely,” Fallin declared on Good Morning America “We’re resilient, strong, courageous people.”
She appears comfortable operating on the state or national level: She was a two-term member of Congress before running for governor in 2010. Fallin became Oklahoma’s first woman governor. GOP insider Cleta Mitchell, who also hails from Oklahoma, says she is “a wonderful example for strong Republican women.”
18 | Laura Ingraham Best-selling author, Fox News guest host
Conservative commentator and host Laura Ingraham, 49, has one of the biggest media platforms around. On television, she is the permanent guest host on the highest-rated talk program on cable news, The O’Reilly Factor. On radio, her Laura Ingraham Show was ranked 5th most popular in the nation in 2012.
In the realm of publishing, her books habitually occupy the No. 1 slot on The New York Times best-seller list — including her latest tome, Of Thee I Zing: America’s Cultural Decline From Muffin Tops to Body Shots. And her digital footprint is growing on LauraIngraham.com.
A former litigator and Supreme Court law clerk, Ingraham is arguably the most successful woman in the male-dominated arena of political talk radio. She’s a force to be reckoned with.
16 | Mary Matalin Political consultant and commentator
Matalin, who turns 60 this month, is famous for her role as the counterpart to outspoken Democratic strategist James Carville, her husband. The secret to their marriage, they say, is to never talk politics at home. But throughout her career, Matalin has been willing to talk politics just about anywhere else.
She served under President Ronald Reagan, helped run George H.W. Bush’s campaign, and served as an adviser to both President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Since 2005, she also has served as editor-in-chief of Simon & Schuster’s conservative imprint, Threshold Editions.
17 | Jan Brewer Governor of Arizona
It could be said Jan Brewer owes her meteoric rise to President Barack Obama. After all, it was Obama’s choice of then-Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano to serve as chief of Homeland Security that elevated Arizona’s secretary of state, Brewer, to become governor.
Once in office, Brewer, now 68, embraced controversial legislation — lambasted by Obama — that cracked down on illegal immigrants. Voters obviously liked her flinty demeanor: In her first election seeking a full term in 2010, she defeated her Democratic opponent by 13 points. Under her leadership, Arizona went from a $3 billion shortfall to an $800 million surplus in just four years.
19 | Carly Fiorina Business executive, Senate candidate
Fiorina, 58, is one of the most powerful women in American business. From 1999 to 2005, she was chairwoman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard, making her the first woman to lead a Fortune 20 company. Fortune named her the Most Powerful Woman in Business for six consecutive years.
Fiorina was a leading advocate for Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign and the RNC. She delved further into politics in 2010, mounting an unsuccessful bid to unseat California Sen. Barbara Boxer.
In 2012, she served as co-chair to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. Today, she serves as chairman of Good360, a nonprofit organization that helps coordinate charitable donations of companies’ excess merchandise.
20 | Ann Coulter Author, Columnist, Commentator
One sign Ann Coulter’s broadsides are singularly effective is the visceral reaction she triggers from the left. Her clever, best-selling titles include How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must) and If Democrats Had Any Brains, They’d Be Republicans.
Coulter, 51, was an attorney before emerging in the 1990s as an outspoken antagonist of the Clinton administration. She steadfastly refuses to indulge the new American pastime of political correctness.
Coulter pens a popular syndicated column, serves as legal correspondent for Human Events, and frequently appears as a commentator on cable news shows. She was an early and outspoken supporter of Mitt Romney in the 2012 election cycle.
21 | Michelle Malkin Author, Columnist, Commentator
“I was born — and remain — an ink-stained wretch.” So declares Malkin, 42, on her website. This may be a revelation to those primarily familiar with her work on television, where she is usually seen slicing and dicing the administration’s latest pettifoggery. But Malkin actually cut her teeth writing editorials for the Los Angeles Daily News and the Seattle Times.
In 1999, she began penning her nationally syndicated newspaper column for Creators Syndicate. Malkin has written four popular books published by Regnery, including Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies. She is a Fox News contributor and has been one of the Obama administration’s most strident critics.
22 | Ana Navarro Republican Strategist,
CNN Political Contributor
Ana Navarro is one of the most outspoken and influential women in politics. She served as Gov. Jon Huntsman’s national Hispanic co-chair in 2012. Born in Nicaragua, she immigrated to the United States with her family during the Sandinista conflict of the 1980s. She is a political contributor for CNN and CNN en Espanol and has influenced state and national races in Florida.
She also served as Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s adviser on immigration policy.
On election night, she boldly tweeted that “Mitt Romney self-deported himself from the White House,” leading ACU chief Al Cardenas to tell the Tampa Bay Times: “Ana has a passion about her, and she’s not going to be intimidated or coerced into doing anything other than what’s right in her mind.”
23 | Marjorie Dannenfelser President, Susan B. Anthony List
Susan B. Anthony List is one of the nation’s leading right-to-life advocacy groups. Under President and Chairwoman Marjorie Dannenfelser the group has nurtured the political careers of pro-life leaders, especially women.
Its political action committee, the Susan B. Anthony List Candidate Fund, has helped elect 97 pro-life candidates to the House of Representatives, 13 to the U.S. Senate, and another 15 to state-level positions. And the organization now has over 365,000 members nationwide.
In December 2010, Newsweek named Dannenfelser, 47, one of the top 10 leaders of the religious right. The SBA List continues to push at both the federal and the state level to defund Planned Parenthood and to enact laws to protect unborn children.
24 | Maria Cino Former Deputy Chair of the RNC
Maria Cino, 56, doesn’t have a seat in Congress or a big media platform. But she enjoys a strong reputation for being able to get things done.
President George W. Bush appointed her deputy secretary of transportation in 2005, overseeing the department’s $61 billion budget and its 60,000 employees. A year later, she became its acting secretary, and later organized the 2008 GOP convention.
A former deputy chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, Cino tossed her hat in the ring for the RNC chairman job in 2011, which Reince Priebus won. In August 2012, she became Hewlett-Packard’s vice president for governmental relations for the United States and the Americas.
25 | Elisabeth Hasselbeck Co-host of The View
Hasselbeck, 36, has been a strong conservative voice on ABC’s The View ever since joining as a co-host in November 2003. In July, she announced she would be joining Fox's Fox & Friends, where she will no doubt continue to impart conservative wit.
On The View, the daytime Emmy Award-winner provided a refreshing counter to Democratic talking points, which viewers welcomed. In 2009, Time magazine chose Hasselbeck and her fellow View co-hosts as among the 100 Most Influential people in the world.
She also was chosen to speak at the 2004 GOP convention and joined the campaign trail in 2008 to promote GOP nominee Sen. John McCain.
Most Republicans agree that encouraging women to assume leadership roles is critical to the party’s prospects. Based on our extensive interviews with GOP insiders, here are a few of the up-and-coming women who will play a major role in the Grand Old Party’s future:
Kristi Noem South Dakota representative
Rep. Noem, 41, says experience running a family ranch led her into politics. She was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2010. Earlier this year, her name was widely floated as a contender for South Dakota’s open U.S. Senate seat in 2014. Although she has since decided to continue to serve in the House, there’s little doubt her star is shining brightly on the national political scene.
Erika Harold GOP candidate, Illinois 13th Congressional District
RNC leaders know they need to do a better job of supporting women candidates and minorities. Enter Erika Harold, 33, a pro-life, Harvard-educated lawyer, and winner of the Miss America 2003 pageant. Harold aims to persuade voters in her swing district to give Republican ideals a try. “I have a strong passion for taking conservative values to communities and groups who may not necessarily consider themselves Republicans,” Harold tells Newsmax.
Deb Fischer Nebraska senator
When then-candidate Fischer defeated former Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey in November, she became the first woman ever elected to a full Senate term from Nebraska. Endorsements from both Sarah Palin and the Club for Growth helped propel Fischer, 62, to an upset victory in the GOP primary. Her website describes her as a “tenacious advocate” for lower taxes, smaller government, and a balanced budget.
Mia Love Saratoga Springs,
Love’s speech on personal accountability and the American dream at the 2012 GOP Convention helped launch her into the political stratosphere. But in November, she lost her Utah congressional contest by a mere 768 votes out of nearly a quarter-million ballots cast. That thin margin of defeat has encouraged Love, 37, to take another shot at the House of Representatives in 2014. She’s considered a strong pro-life, fiscal conservative candidate.
Pam Bondi Florida attorney general
Bondi’s lead role in the state-level lawsuit that challenged Obamacare has won her a devoted following among the GOP rank-and-file. Following an 18-year career as a prosecutor and assistant state attorney general, Bondi, 47, won Sarah Palin’s endorsement during the course of her successful 2010 campaign. She has become something of a conservative reformer in Florida, investigating mortgage and Medicaid fraud and fighting human trafficking.
Andrea Tantaros Fox News The Five co-host and radio talker
Tantaros, 34, blends the realpolitik of the political trenches with a wicked-smart sense of humor, as evidenced by her work each weekday on Fox’s The Five. She also hosts a nationally syndicated radio program, The Andrea Tantaros Show. Earlier in her career, she helped GOP House leaders craft their messaging. Given the party’s struggles to shape a winsome message for women, Tantaros’ voice will play an increasingly important role in the years ahead.
The Republican women battling in today’s political arena often pay homage to the trailblazers who preceded them. Here are Newsmax magazine’s choices for the most respected Republican women. They boldly cleared the paths that other GOP women travel today:
Nancy Reagan Former first lady
Any review of today’s leading Republican ladies must begin with Nancy Reagan, 92, who became a stalwart guardian of her husband and his presidency after his near brush with death at the hands of John Hinckley Jr. But she never lost sight of another objective: Protecting the nation’s young people from the ravages of drugs.
“I think almost anyone would right away mention ‘Just Say No,’ ” says former Sen. Elizabeth Dole, referring to the anti-drug abuse campaign championed by the first lady. “She impacted the lives of young people especially with ‘Just Say No.’ ”
Nancy Reagan would later write that any first lady has “a unique and important role to play in looking after her husband . . . it is only natural that she’ll let him know what she thinks. I always did that for Ronnie.”
History relates that Nancy Reagan left a white orchid behind as a memento for her successor, first lady Barbara Bush, when she left the White House for the last time. Now in her autumn years, Nancy Reagan’s life and legacy have themselves become a precious gift bequeathed to future generations of Republican women.
Barbara Bush Former first lady
It’s not every woman who becomes matriarch of a political dynasty. But as wife of H.W. Bush, and mother to sons George W. and Jeb Bush, that is precisely the historic role that former first lady Barbara Bush, 88, has fulfilled.
Sen. Elizabeth Dole, who served as secretary of labor under Bush the elder, tells Newsmax: “I just admire so much her strong advocacy of volunteerism, because she continues to speak out, as well as her foundation for family literacy.”
“Speaking out” has never been a problem for Barbara Bush. And Americans have loved her for it. Her popularity has overshadowed the men in the family: In early 1992, she enjoyed an extraordinary 81 percent favorable rating with the voters.
She broke with precedent by becoming the first candidate’s spouse who was not yet first lady to give a speech at the nominating convention in 1988. And she’s been speaking her mind ever since, including her April declaration that “We’ve had enough Bushes” in the White House. Even today, when Barbara Bush speaks, people in Republican circles listen.
Laura Bush Former first lady
By most accounts, few first ladies have presided in the White House with as much charm and grace as Laura Bush, 66. She proudly stood by her president even as brickbats and innuendo from the left rained down upon him. Somehow, she even managed to smile while doing it.
A former teacher and librarian, the first lady avidly promoted literacy and education. She established the annual Texas Book Festival in 1995, and launched the National Book Festival in 2001.
But Laura Bush’s greatest contribution may well be her role in the somber months after 9/11. Speaking in a national radio address, she single-handedly called out the Taliban’s brutal oppression of women in Afghanistan, condemning “the brutal degradation of women and children by the Taliban regime.”
She most recently appeared in the public spotlight in April at the dedication of the George W. Bush presidential library and museum. And her work on behalf of women and children around the globe continues via the George W. Bush Institute that she founded with her husband in 2009.
Sen. Elizabeth Dole Former Cabinet secretary
Former Sen. Dole, R-N.C., has enjoyed one of the most storied careers in Washington.
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan made her the first woman ever appointed secretary of the Department of Transportation.
In 1989, Dole became then-President George H.W. Bush’s secretary of labor, making her the first woman to serve two different presidents in separate Cabinet positions. In 1996, she played a major role in the presidential campaign of her husband, Sen. Bob Dole. Dole, 77, isn’t slowing down. Her foundation (ElizabethDoleFoundation.org) has undertaken a major initiative to provide a much-needed support system to bolster the countless caregivers who are laboring selflessly each day to help America’s wounded warriors get back on their feet.
“The joy of leadership is empowering women to believe in themselves,” she tells Newsmax. “And that yes, they can do it.”
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