Political ambition

Republican congresswoman’s 4-year effort to recruit women to the GOP suddenly in dire peril

Chairman of the House Republican Conference Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) speaks to the media while flanked by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Four years ago, U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state undertook an ambitious political mission: reaching out to and recruiting more women to join the GOP ranks. Knowing the Democrats would probably have a woman running for president in 2016, McMorris Rodgers, who in 2005 became the 200th woman elected to the House of Representatives, knew she had a four-year window to improve the party’s standing among women. “I found that our brand was so damaged that it was almost like they couldn’t even hear us,” she told The New York Times in an interview about the daunting task in front of her.

McMorris Rodgers, though busy shuttling across the country to balance her responsibilities in Washington, D.C., with raising three children, all under the age of 8, set out with the help of some of her fellow women colleagues to change the image of the Republican party and the women who identify with it. They blitzed tradition media, like women’s magazines, and social media with success stories about Republican women. McMorris Rodgers, 46, and her partners started to see real results — stories about various Republican women published in all sorts of magazines and on websites targeted at women. They hoped it could be enough to begin moving the needle in the 2016 presidential election. But now, all of that hard work is in grave peril due to one man.

Donald Trump.

“I think his comments regarding women and other comments, I find them inappropriate,” Ms. McMorris Rodgers said in the interview. “I find them hurtful and I think they are hurtful to the party, a party that has been founded on equal opportunity for all.” Trump, especially given his recent controversies, is all but driving women away from the party. A recent poll found that a whopping 73 percent of registered female voters in the U.S. had an unfavorable view of Trump, and some 31 percent of Republican women would be dissatisfied if Trump won the election.

“I think it is important that we respect that women have different political views,” Ms. McMorris Rodgers said of the political climate, while cautioning about a simplistic approach to feminism. “The idea that just because you are a woman you should be supporting Hillary Clinton I think is false. There is a broad base of political views.”

Though Trump is the most recent and present threat to her efforts, getting to this point required her and her collaborators to overcome some resistance. When they originally set out to execute their plan, they found that many editors in the mainstream media were reluctant to listen to the stories they pitched — largely because of one controversial reason.

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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