For a GOP already struggling to combat the Democratic narrative that it is waging “a war on women,” what could possibly be worse than having your candidate for governor of Texas land in a high-profile smackdown with a female state senator famous for filibustering a bill aimed at restricting abortion access?
Well, for starters, the gender gap might not be improved by said candidate also traipsing across the state arm in arm with legendarily misogynistic whacko Ted Nugent.
From a more policy-oriented perspective, it could also be considered than less than ideal if said candidate, through his ham-fisted handling (or, more precisely, dodging) of questions regarding equal pay for women somehow managed to reignite the national debate over the hot-button issue.
But you know what would really be the poison cherry on top? Having Texas Republican women try to throw said candidate a lifeline only to smack him in the head with a big-ass anchor.
Such was the awkward result when a handful of female lobbyists, legislative staffers, and party operatives recently stepped forward to help state Attorney General Greg Abbott woo the ladies in his gubernatorial battle against Democrat Wendy Davis.
Leading the XX-charge on behalf of Abbott was RedState Women, the brand new Abbott-friendly PAC that launched March 12. In a burst of opening-day enthusiasm, executive director Cari Christman declared her group poised “to change, revolutionize, the way we communicate with women in the party. To stand up and say, ‘Democrats don’t corner the market on women.’” The PAC plans a heavy online presence, with videos and press releases featuring Republican women explaining why the GOP is good for women. (Like Christman, the group’s three board members are all well-connected women players in the state party.) In a swipe at Davis’s pro-choice celebrity, Christman stressed to Politico that the GOP “is not a one-issue party.” “It’s not just about, are you pro-life or pro-choice,” the veteran legislative staffer said. “It’s a lot more than that. Women have a wide range of interests. We want to make sure we reach them.”
A few days later, Christman had the opportunity to do just that. Asked about the growing debate over equal pay, a cudgel with which Team Davis and EMILY’s list had been gleefully bashing Abbott for several days, Christman began rambling about how women are so very, very “busy” that they do not have the time to fret over such things as discrimination lawsuits.
The resulting national firestorm was pretty much what you’d expect. Thus was much of the political world introduced to RedState Women.
Compounding the damage, the very next day, Beth Cubriel, executive director of the Texas GOP, told YNN”s “Capitol Tonight” that men make more money than women because they are “better negotiators,” and that gals looking for better pay ought to spend less time thinking about lawsuits and more time honing their haggling skills. Again, perhaps not the best messaging for a party looking to, as Christman put it in a phone interview Tuesday, “take back the conversation from Democrats.”
Now, it’s one thing to have your garden-variety Republican man stumble over an issue like pay equity. It’s a significantly juicier development when the women rushing to defend him prompt even shriller catcalls. At this point, national Democrats are so delighted by all the grief Abbott and his surrogates are taking over equal pay that the party is looking to make the issue a central theme in the midterms.
No matter: Christman and her conservative sisters remain unbowed and eager to plow ahead. Sure, it’s been a bit of a bumpy start, the sunny, 38-year-old acknowledged in a phone interview Tuesday. (“I may not have been the clearest in my statements, obviously,” she said of her “busy” gaffe.) But she assured me that RedState Women is not some flash-in-the-pan effort. Though the PAC was born as what some might consider a desperate, not-quite-ready-for-prime-time response to the anti-women narrative Davis and the Dems were spinning, Christman insists she will keep it humming well beyond the midterms and ran through her grand future plans: fund-raising, community outreach, social networking, even candidate recruitment. You name a way to get more gals into the Texas GOP, RedState Women is fired up to make it happen. But most importantly, she said, the group intends to provide “a platform for women to speak up collectively.”
Greg Abbott might want to strap on his crash helmet.