Advice to Republicans: Nominate women

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By Kent R. Kroeger (Source:  NuQum.com, February 12, 2018)

“Where are all the Republican women?” Politico’s David Bernstein asked in a 2016 article.

The solution to Bernstein’s question is simple: the Republicans need to nominate more women for the 2018 congressional races. If the GOP wants to keep control of the House, it is imperative.

While recent opinion trends have brought some tentative optimism to Republicans, few analysts believe the Republicans will keep control of the U.S. House after the midterm elections.

PredictIt, a prediction market, gives the Democrats a 63 percent chance of taking control of the House in 2018.

If disposable personal income growth accelerates as expected and Donald Trump’s job approval remains around 42 percent, NuQum.com’s Midterm Election Prediction Tool predicts the Republicans will still lose 34 House seats and 4 Senate seats. In other words, under current conditions, they will lose control of both congressional chambers.

We’ve already seen 22 Republican House members announce their retirements, many because of their dimming re-election chances. In contrast, only 9 House Democrats are retiring (as of February 8, 2018).

While Democrats’ Trump-dementia may wear thin by November, leading voters to recoil back into the arms of Republicans, the GOP can’t rest their chances on that hope. Instead, the Republicans need to acknowledge the seriousness of the public’s mood right now and, in particular, the anger many women feel towards the current president.

If the GOP adopts Laura Ingraham’s argument that “women have never had it this good,” keeping control of the House and Senate is a lost cause. As Ingraham certainly knows, when it comes to voting, facts often aren’t as important as feelings.

Many women are angry right now at a president they see as an unrepentant serial abuser of women.

“The average difference in Trump’s approval rating between men and women was 12 percentage points in 2017, roughly double the differences for the three presidents who served immediately before him,” according to Megan Brenan from the Gallup Organization. “Trump’s annual average approval rating for his first year in office was 45 percent among men and 33 percent among women. These sub-50% ratings for a president’s first year in office are unprecedented, as is the 12-point gender difference.”

The Atlantic and the Gallup Poll recently completed extensive polling in 13 battleground states and found Trump’s job approval among college-educated white women exceeded 34 percent in only four of those states.

College-educated white women are the vanguard of the anti-Trump movement, but even among white women without college degrees, one of Trump’s core voting blocs in 2016, his approval ratings have dropped precipitously.

In the 2016 election, Trump carried 61 percent of white women without a college degree. But in a yearlong 2017 study, SurveyMonkey found this group evenly split, with 49 percent approving and 49 percent disapproving of Trump’s performance as president.

Why this drop in Trump’s approval among white women without college degrees? Beyond the overwhelmingly negative news coverage given to the Trump presidency, in general, there is also circumstantial evidence pointing to the rise of the #MeToo movement and society’s heightened sensitivities to sexual harassment and abuse issues.

In a January 2018 Washington Post-ABC News Poll, 79 percent of white women without college degrees believe sexual harassment is a nationwide problem, and this was before Trump’s tone deaf defense of former top aide Rob Porter, who is accused of abusing his two ex-wives and an ex-girlfriend.

As NPR’s political reporter Danielle Kurtzleben observantly points out, the gender gap for congressional Republicans paints a slightly better picture. The current Republican gender gap is not unusually large compared to recent congressional election polls (see chart below), but it does portend large Democratic gains in the 2018 midterms, similar to 2006.

Accordingly, congressional Republicans are keeping a close eye on the mood in their districts. According to The Cook Political Report (as of February 8th), six open House seats, previously held by the Republicans, are ‘leaning’ Democratic and 18 incumbent Republicans are in toss-up races.

Furthermore, despite Kurtzleben’s accurate observation, congressional Republicans should be looking for ways to reduce the gender gap.

“The future is female,” writes Alan Jude Ryland of SecondNexus.com.

Supporting Ryland’s broad assertion, NuQum.com’s research on the 2016 Iowa state legislative elections found that among candidates challenging incumbents, on average, women outperformed men, even after controlling for other factors such as party affiliation and campaign expenditures. The candidate gender effect was no more than 3 percentage points; but in a close election, that is the difference between winning and losing.

Perceptions of candidate ‘honesty’ and ‘trust’ were a major factor in undecided voters’ selection decisions at the presidential level in 2016; but, as we know, that didn’t help the woman at the top of the Democratic ticket. Nonetheless, research consistently shows that women are viewed as more trustworthy than men (recent examples of this research can be found here and here).

It is not conjecture anymore that women may have a distinct advantage as political candidates with American voters.

If our Iowa finding applies to the nation, and we are confident it does, Republicans need to nominate as many women as possible for the 17 open House races considered ‘leaning’ or ‘toss-ups,’ if that strategy tips the balance in just half of those races, it will prevent the Republicans from losing control of the House.

It is mere speculation at this point, but given the raw size of the women’s marches and the #MeToo movement, it is not far-fetched to suggest women in the future are going to be more inclined to vote for other women.

Undeniable is how the Trump presidency has energized millions of women in this country, not just to march and organize voter registration drives, but to also run for elective office.

As of now, 2018 is shaping up to be another 1992, billed then as “The Year of the Woman.” In that election, the number of women in Congress doubled when 27 new women were elected to Congress. Women have not seen gains like that since, and while 2018 probably won’t double the number of women in Congress, we will see a significant percentage increase from the current 19.4 percent.

Are the Republicans prepared for this? What do you think? They just ran creepy virgin chaser Roy Moore for the Senate seat in Alabama. If the Republicans want to cede Alabama to the Democrats, run more Roy Moores.

If the GOP wants to consistently win elections in the Deep South again, find more Nikki Haleys and Joni Ernsts. Unfortunately for the GOP, however, Haley and Ernst can’t run in all 435 House and 33 Senate races.

Its not that the Republicans aren’t represented by other strong women. Despite fewer GOP women in the House, the past 10 years has seen the influx of younger female Republicans that bode well for the party’s future:

Martha McSally (Arizona – 2nd District),  Mimi Walters (California – 45th District), Jackie Walorski (Indiana – 2nd District),  Susan Brooks (Indiana – 5th District),  Lynn Jenkins (Kansas – 2nd District),  Vicky Hartzler (Missouri – 4th District), Elise Stefanik (New York – 21st District), Claudia Tenney (New York, 22nd District)*, Kristi Noem (South Dakota – At Large),  Mia Love (Utah – 4th District), Barbara Comstock (Virginia – 10th District)*, Jaime Herrera Beutler (Washington – 3rd District), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Washington – 5th District)

[* denotes incumbents in toss-up races, according to The Cook Political Report]

But the Republicans need more candidates like these women. Clone them if they know how. Women need to start filling the GOP’s new candidate training pipelines. The Democrats are recruiting women candidates at hyper-drive speeds right now and will reap the benefits in 2018 if left unchallenged.

As with many other social equity trends, the U.S. trails Europe in the advancement of women in the political arena. You won’t read any new Bild or Der Spiegel articles on whether the Germans are ready for a female Chancellor. Women politicians are so established in the United Kingdom that when Prime Minister Theresa May is routinely criticized for being “weak, indecisive, and vacillating” nobody screams  “misogyny” or “sexism” in her defense.

At least 30 percent of lower house members are women in most European countries, the exceptions being Ireland (22 percent), Poland (28 percent), and Luxembourg (28 percent). At current trends, however, these percentages will approach 50 percent in the next 20 years.

That trend is slower but equally definitive in the U.S.

In the not-so-distant future, when 50 percent of all U.S. House and Senate members are women, that will mean the electorates in 134 House and 28 Senate districts, now represented by men, will have elected a woman.

Republican Party, are you prepared for that? Seriously, do you have enough quality women candidates to account for at least half of those new women in Congress?

GOP, that is your challenge.

K.R.K.

{Send comments to: kkroeger@nuqum.com}

About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.

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