Taking in a crowd of 400 young women, mostly twenty-and thirty-somethings, packed into a room on Capitol Hill last night, House Speaker John Boehner said: “No one would have ever believed this was a young Republican women’s event.”
This was his way of acknowledging a concern for Republicans heading into the 2014 midterm congressional elections: The gender gap, especially among so-called “Sex and the City voters,” unmarried, professionals under 40.
“I’m glad they’re here,” he said.
The Ohio Republican’s party is coming off an election, the 2012 presidential contest, in which the gender gap in support for Republicans and Democrats was the widest in Gallup’s history of tracking elections by subgroups since 1952. President Barack Obama out-performed Republican Mitt Romney by 12 percentage points, and Romney won among men by eight points.
Boehner was the guest of honor at the launch party for “RightNOW Women’s PAC,” a group of young professional women who are dedicated to funding and recruiting Republican women for public office and revving up voter turnout among their peers.
Co-founder Brittany Thune, 26 and the daughter of Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, said she was inspired to get a network of under- 40s together for “low dollar, high volume” fundraisers after seeing the disappointing results for her party in 2012. Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and South Dakota Rep. Kristi Noem were on hand — among just four Republican women in the Senate and 19 in the House.
“This room is the Democrats’ worst nightmare,” said Ayotte. “They always say they have the corner on women.”
“Women’s issues are being twisted against us,” said Noem. “There’s a woman’s perspective on every issue.”
Pollster Linda Divall said the party has its work cut out for it with women in 2014. A recent Gallup poll, she said, revealed that only 25 percent of the electorate identified with the Republican Party. “When people think of a Republican they think of a white man who doesn’t understand them,” she said. “When people think of a Democrat they think of a diverse person who knows how to have fun. How can he have fun when he’s spending your money?”
Brittany Thune said the PAC will make decisions on funding and endorsements as a group, and will not impose a litmus test based on abortion or other issues. She said they are simply looking to get behind “smart and qualified” Republican women.
Ayotte and Noem both said that women candidates don’t run unless they are asked or recruited. “When men look in the mirror, they see a U.S. senator,” Ayotte said. ’’ Women have to be asked.’’
The crowd also had an eye on 2016.
“Let’s have the first woman president be a Republican woman,” pleaded Ayotte.
“What about you?” shouted someone in the audience.