May 2 2016
featuring Sabrina Schaeffer and Carrie L. Lukas
Just when we thought the GOP couldn’t do much worse with women voters, Donald Trump is losing them (and not just single or millennial or college-educated women, but pretty much all women) in an unprecedented way. His losing margins would be laughable if they weren’t so sad for the GOP. Even former Trump advisor Roger Stone said in an interview with Politico’s Glen Thrush that Donald’s “going to have to better articulate himself on issues that are of concern to women.” You think?
It’s unfortunate, as there is little love for Hillary Clinton, and it’s pretty clear that women would reluctantly support her. But with the GOP focus becoming more on how to save the Senate and folks in tough House races, the party needs a plan to change women’s perceptions of the GOP.
We have a great opportunity to improve our standing with women on an issue that should be a natural fit for the GOP: equal pay.
Hillary Clinton is spending a lot of time talking about it (and here is one of those data points that we usually look at post election and wish we’d paid more attention to). According to CMAG Television data as of April 25th, Hillary for America has already run close to 30,000 spots (approximately 189 hours) that address equal pay: over 2,000 spots in Boston and Las Vegas, over 400 in Denver, over 300 in Cleveland, over 200 in Richmond?—?all general election battleground states and not just for president but House and Senate, too.
Republican ads on equal pay: zero. This is something we need to fix, and fast.
A recent national survey of independent women conducted by a Republican research organization found that a plurality (18%) named “enforcing equal pay” as an issue that would most help women?—?higher than keeping us safe from terrorism (15%), making healthcare affordable (14%) and controlling spending & taxes (14%). This is not a Democrat base issue that the GOP can ignore.
At a time when the Democrats’ “war on women” has become vapid, they are trying out new material, and equal pay is their new headliner. But the Democrat playbook on equal pay looks like most of their policy proposals: introduce the same legislation, point to the same fallacies, call for more government mandates and regulation, and more trial lawyers.
What Democrats get wrong is that women aren’t out to punish employers and hurt businesses?—?they would like to see them do well, because that means better opportunities for them and their families. Independent Women’s Forum conducted research that presented women with a message in favor of the Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA) vs. a message in opposition focused on the economic downsides of the law. When respondents heard the PFA message in concert with the economic message, support for the proposed law dropped by nearly 40 points because the reality of what PFA means in terms of job loss and economic impact is worrisome to most women.
It’s why Republicans can win on equal pay. Equal pay for equal work is consistent with the core Republican belief that all Americans must be given the opportunity to succeed. Our Republican values base achievement on merit, not on gender, and it’s exactly this approach that women want and expect in closing the pay gap.
But we’ve got to show up.
First, every Republican must be bold about saying, “Women deserve to be paid equally and fairly. No woman should get paid less simply because she is a woman.” Women voters expect this, so say it loudly and often.
Second, we need a credible alternative to the Paycheck Fairness Act. Senators Deb Fischer, Kelly Ayotte and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers all have various proposals that strengthen current laws and protect women from being retaliated against for seeking employee salary information. We should move on these proposals soon.
Third, we need a comprehensive communications strategy that lays out our case. We need a creative advertising campaign and women knocking on doors to persuade voters face to face. We also need something that we don’t do well as a party?—?cultural products: documentaries, essays, cool memes, or whatever the Snapchat rage of the day is that reaches women in a non-political way.
The GOP has an opportunity to win on equal pay. It will be a defining issue in how women view the GOP. And at a time when the party badly needs to repair our brand with women, this is a good place to start.