WASHINGTON — In the Obama era, Democrats usually have had two big advantages over Republicans: women and volunteers. This year, Republicans are trying to change that, seeking to amass an army of young female volunteers who can carry the GOP message and counter the “war on women” rhetoric that has been so effective for Democrats.
Fresh off a week in which Democrats made it clear that a key part of their midterm message will be equal pay, Republicans are set to begin their own efforts to woo women to the polls, focusing on counties that went blue in 2012 and could tip the balance in November.
In West Virginia on Monday, Sharon Day, co-chairman of the Republican National Committee, launched “14 in ‘14,” a program that will focus on younger women in suburban areas that lean blue. The idea is to sign up women who will commit 30 minutes per week in the 14 weeks before the election, making phone calls, recruiting other women, identifying voters and getting people to the polls..
Republicans have been dogged by criticism that their party is out of touch with women. In a CNN poll in February, 55 percent of respondents said that Republicans didn’t understand women, a figure that jumps to 64 percent among women older than 50, a group that traditionally has been more Republican.
One strategy is to have more women out front and carrying the GOP message, not only on the Senate and House floor but also block by block in neighborhoods across the country, which is the kind of grass-roots engagement that “14 in ‘14” will try to build.
Day announced the effort in Charleston, W.Va., with Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who is running for the Senate seat being vacated with the retirement of Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.
“We know that we’re not going to win elections if we’re not reaching out to the 21-to-40-year-old groups of women, and we understand that and we’re willing to earn that,” Day said at the kickoff event. “We’re willing to start the discussion. We want to be there and invite them to be part of the solution, part of the process.”
Democrats are more focused on single women, a group that they won in 2012 by 36 points, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently announced that it will use a national computer model that can predict voters’ marital status. In focusing on a minimum- wage increase and equal-pay legislation, Democrats hope to appeal to working-class women and have framed their populist plan as a “women’s economic agenda.”
But Republicans, who typically outpoll Democrats among married women, are on the offensive. Last week, as Democrats held a vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act, Republicans introduced their own amendments and criticized the White House for a pay gap among West Wing staffers. The Democratic proposal fell short of the 60 votes needed to survive a GOP filibuster.
Monday’s efforts come as Republicans have continued the effort to be more competitive in additional states, including “purple” ones such as Colorado, Michigan and New Hampshire. The RNC is targeting 25 mostly blue counties out of 300 in 10 states with congressional and gubernatorial races, in a mix of red, purple and traditionally blue states.
Here is the list of the first round of targeted states and counties: Arkansas (Pulaski); Florida (Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Leon, Pinellas); Georgia (Cobb, Gwinnett); Louisiana (East Baton Rouge, Jefferson, New Orleans); Michigan (Oakland, Wayne); Montana (Yellowstone); North Carolina (Mecklenberg, Wake); Ohio (Cuyahoga, Lake, Mahoning); Pennsylvania (Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Chester, Montgomery); and West Virginia (Kanawha, Cabell).