The event was billed as the “Winning Women Voters” brunch. Nearly hundred attendees, almost all of whom were women, gathered over scrambled eggs and Canadian bacon presumably to learn about how the Republican Party can boost its dismal performance with female voters.
This has been a major focus of the GOP in the wake of the 2012 elections, with party officials even bringing in “media specialists” to teach candidates how to tailor their pitch to reach women.
“We can never ever lose another election by double-digits as we did in 2012,” Sharon Day, co-chair of the Republican National Committee told the audience, which was gathered as a part of the Republican Leadership Conference, a three day event in New Orleans designed to rally the GOP faithful. “We are here saying we are not a coalition! We are not a group to be outreached to! We are a group that will win the votes to go forward, but we also have to become engaged, which is what this is about. If we don’t change the direction of our voting operation with women, we are not going to win elections.”
But for nearly two hours, attendees learned very little about how to win women voters, or even about whether or not the Republican Party has a plan to do so going forward. Rather the seminar was half-devoted to a demonstration of the party’s increasingly sophisticated Get-Out-The-Vote efforts, and half-devoted to how would-be candidates should handle the media.
Lisa Camooso Miller, a Republican strategist, lectured about “the new media reality.”
“People writing down information are no longer legitimate journalists,” she said. “They are men and women just like me and you who have opinions.”
Miller explained how to deal with social media, how to fend off attacks from your opponent, and how to deal with those newfangled camera phones.
Among the tips: if a reporter asks you “Are you cheating on your spouse,” Miller said, don’t respond with, “No I’m not cheating on my spouse.”
“If you are explaining you are losing. Make your case right away,” she added. “Don’t bother with what the details are until later.”
And she warned them to be very wary of dealing with the media.
“Local reporters are very angry. They are angry because their jobs are very threatened. They are threatened by the Internet. They are threatened by smarter, younger kids that are coming up that are willing to do three, four and five different pieces. They are cranky and they are tired but they are grateful to you if you think in advance of stories for them and help them tell those stories.”
There were further tips too—like make sure you are comfortable and relaxed when speaking with a reporter, practice what you are going to say, don’t pick up the phone right away. “Do yourself a favor. Get the message straight. Get those words right and then use the same language over and over.”
And candidates, she advised, should heed her words, since the tide was turning and the youth vote was bound to soon come home to the GOP. This is because President Obama “is no longer the outside guy. He represents government. So therefore youth is now seeking out a new and exciting candidate, so we see opportunity. We see the opportunity to identify and present a candidate who young people can get excited about.”
There was one brief moment that seemed geared towards women. At the end of her talk, Miller did reserve a few words “for the ladies.”
“This is the ladies talk section of the conversation. I promise I will keep it all above board,” Miller said, before giving advice on how women can present themselves on television: “Appearance. Posture. Personality. Attitude.”
“You see candidates now being asked about their weight, asked about their hair,” she added. “You don’t want something on your shirt distracting from what you say. Conservative. Attire. Works.” She added that the female candidates should always carry a small mirror with them just in case the local television station does not have a proper make-up room.
When the data guys from the RNC got up to speak, they mostly extolled the women present to help with the GOTV operation, pointing out that all of their technology would be useless if they do not have the bodies to knock on doors. They unveiled a video of John Wayne saying the exact same thing on behalf of Ronald Reagan when the Gipper first ran for Governor of California.
By this point however, most of the women had left the room.