The Conviction of Your Beliefs
When it comes to ideology, many Republican women are pushed (by political operatives, consultants, and even their friends) to kowtow to the far right on social issues for the sake of maintaining their “base.” I’ve met so many women who come out of the campaign gate with every intention of standing by their commitment to individual choice—be it on issues of life or marriage—and end up quickly folding.
Research shows that voters—women and men alike—will always choose honesty of conviction, coupled with compassion, over simple regurgitation of what candidates think the electorate wants to hear. Voters are more in tune than we think and will spot a phony rather quickly.
But, as one female state-level party leader warned:
“I think there is a difference between what a primary voter is looking for and what a general election voter is looking for. Primary voters tend to be more male, more white. As far as women go, they’re more married women. The general electorate is much more diverse and includes more single women. It may be harder for some people to get through the primary, but they might be more successful and a stronger general election candidate.”
It is true that primaries make the ideology battle particularly difficult for female candidates. Parity’s recent research found that
“it is virtually impossible for a Republican candidate to emerge as anything other than conservative. While the same is likely true for Democrats (on the liberal side), there is some recognition that being pushed too far to the right in a primary election may hinder chances at winning some swing districts.”
Women GOP candidates should look at the 2014 Senate race as instructive for future primary battles. Senate candidates Shelley Moore Capito (WV) and Monica Wehby (OR) both won their packed Republican primaries—despite being pro-choice.
I was working for one of Dr. Wehby’s opponents during the recent cycle, and the party chattering class was convinced that there was “no way” a pro-choice, female candidate could win a Republican primary. Yet both Dr. Wehby and Rep. Capito won their primary races with impressive margins, earning 49.96% and 87.5% of the vote, respectively. And, what’s more—they won with the backing of national Republican caucus groups.
Run on the conviction of your beliefs; it’s a winning personal and political strategy.
Sarah Lenti is the founder of her political consulting firm, SML Advisory Partners. Sarah’s clients range widely from candidates and politicians to international non-profits, independent documentary films and super PACS. Previously, she served under Dr. Condoleezza Rice at the National Security Council, worked on three Presidential election campaigns, and led the policy research for Governor Mitt Romney’s book, No Apology: The Case for American Greatness. Connect with Sarah on Twitter with the hashtags #PrimaryHurdles and #GOPWomen.