Ill Communication: The GOP Explains Its ‘Female Candidate’ Problem

Republican National Committee Co-Chair Sharon Day speaks at press conference to launch 'Women on the Right Unite' - an RNC project to promote the recruitment of and support for Republican women and women candidates. (Photo/RNC, June 26, 2013)

Republican National Committee Co-Chair Sharon Day speaks at press conference to launch ‘Women on the Right Unite’ – an RNC project to promote the recruitment of and support for Republican women and women candidates. (Photo/RNC, June 26, 2013)

If the GOP wants to recruit female candidates and attract more female voters it needs to make sure their communications director doesn’t veer off its politically-correct-we-want-diversity’ message.

Sean Spicer, the Republican National Committee’s Communication Director was interviewed (among others) by Real Clear Politics for its article, ‘The GOP’s Female Candidate Problem.’ The article discusses how the RNC is “work[ing] to close the gap with female voters” given that “the majority of the 2012 [female electorate] supported President Obama over Mitt Romney by a 12-point margin.” The piece also mentions that “no viable Republican woman appears inclined to throw her hat in the 2016 ring” amidst the “likelihood of Hillary Clinton as the Democrats’ standard-bearer, potentially making history as the first female presidential nominee from either major party.”

With the above information in mind, Spicer was asked to address the “Republicans’ strategy for attracting more female voters” and the GOP’s concern of not “fielding a more diverse presidential field” while dealing with the possible “optics of Americans watching a host of Republican men fighting it out against one another as Clinton marches to the Democratic nomination . . . ”

Spicer’s initial response was appropriate in that he says all the right things; not raising any flags, while expressing interest in having a more inclusive party.

“Obviously, diversity would be great, but the race is not going to be defined by whether we have a woman; people are going to judge candidates based on their agenda,”

Then he went off the reservation with his next statement.

“This isn’t a beauty contest,” he said. “It’s about trying to put candidates forward who want to run for the presidency of the United States. We have extremely talented women. If they want to run, that’s awesome. If not, there’s no control over that.”

Real Clear Politics added that Spicer was “quick to point out that the RNC and the Republican campaign committees recently held a seminar promoting the recruitment and training of female candidates within party ranks.”

Let’s go back to the phrase “This isn’t a beauty contest.” Did he not realize that he just implied that republican female candidates don’t take the campaign or election process seriously – that they might view it as an easy “contest” based on looks rather than skills and experience? The latent sexism in the comment is not exactly PR-friendly given that the GOP wants to attract female candidates and more female voters to its party. Maybe he didn’t mean what he said or what it inferred, though as a communications director he should be more cognizant of contextual metaphors.

Pin Button sold on Republican National Committee website (Photo/GOP.com)

Pin Button sold on Republican National Committee website (Photo/GOP.com)

Spicer continued his communication stumble with his “If not, there’s no control over that” statement when it comes to finding republican female candidates to run for office. Isn’t recruiting and support viable candidates – male and female – a primary directive of the RNC? Does Spicer think female republican candidates should just fall into the GOP’s lap (to use another inappropriate metaphor) for them to mold and champion?

Near the end of his interview a light bulb must have went off in Spicer’s head that maybe his statements didn’t come off well, hence the ‘seminar promoting recruitment’ statement.

What’s odd is that he has basically shifted the blame to republican women for the GOP’s lack of female candidates on its roster. He might as well had raised his hands and said “Hey, the Republican Party has done the best it could to find these women, but they just don’t want to run. What are we supposed to do?!”

Luckily for him most of the articles’ readers probably didn’t catch the semi-dismissive tone of his comments, though Real Clear Politics placed them in the top half of its piece. By the time most people have read or skimmed the rest of the article Spicer’s comments will blithely be forgotten.

In the end, I doubt the RNC apparatus will be mad at Spicer for discounting potential republican women candidates. They might be a tad pissed that he said out loud what most of the male-dominated party truly thinks about its female members.

As they say, the truth hurts and this one continues to hurt the Republican Party.

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