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/
Pin Button sold on Republican National Committee website (Photo/

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.

Sarah Palin: Not So Plain, Not So Tall

Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska; possible GOP 2012 presidential candidate (Photo by Theresalbs2002/WikimediaCommons)

When I was a teen, I read the classic children’s book ‘Sarah Plain and Tall,’ which is about a woman who dresses plainly but is ‘tall’ of character. This book popped into my head when I heard about Sarah Palin’s upcoming ‘One Nation‘ tour. This Palin is definitely not plain. As for her character, it depends on whom you’re asking at the time.

If you haven’t heard already, Palin plans to visit historical sites along the East Coast (starting Memorial weekend) in which she’ll “share the importance of America’s foundation.” Not exactly sure what she plans to accomplish since details are still sketchy. One can’t help but think that this move–amongst others she has made recently–is in preparation for her run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

Palin has been quiet these past few months as her popularity and poll numbers have dropped since the Tucson/Giffords shooting. The GOP weren’t exactly enamored about her possible presidential candidacy, especially when they had other more viable potential candidates in the wings such as Mike Huckabee, Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. Romney, Pawlenty and Gingrich are the only bigwigs left and yet the GOP still look like they’re waiting for someone else, someone better. I doubt that person is Palin, but maybe she feels that she is the one person to pull the party together.

Palin could have been the lead GOP 2012 candidate if she had played her cards right after the 2008 election. She knew as the GOP’s then vice-presidential candidate that the general public thought (and some still think) that she is all flash, no substance. Her intelligence and interest in governing has been constantly questioned.

After November 2008 she could have taken stock of her situation and decided to beef up her credentials. She could have sat down and familiarized herself with the print and digital media. She could have hit the books to get a stronger understanding of the U.S. economy, how government works and our nation’s history. Palin could have reached out to experts, journalists, politicians and academics to find out what they think about foreign affairs, the national debt, health care, social reform or the U.S. military presence overseas. She could have written op-ed pieces, co-written reports, posted blogs, showed up on the Sunday talk shows, or participated in panel discussions at think tanks or universities.  She could have done town halls or Facebook discussions where the public could ask her questions about the state of America. Palin did none of those things.

What has she done these past 2+ years?  She gave a Thanksgiving interview in which a turkey was being slaughtered in the background. She resigned from the governorship of the state of Alaska with 18 months left in her first term. She did a reality show based on her life in Alaska. She became a sometime pundit on Fox News. She wrote Going Rogue which read more like a conversation than a book explaining her political purpose in life. She decried that Obama’s healthcare program would institute bureaucratic death panels which would decide who are worthy to receive healthcare or pass on to the hereafter. She made limited speeches in front of corporate executives and advocacy groups in which she charged five and six figure fees. She wrote notes in black ink on her hand to help her remember talking points during speeches. She joined the social media sphere via Twitter and Facebook which allowed the public immediate access to her word choice skills (remember ‘refudiate?‘) that was cause for ridicule.  She showed tone-deafness when she turned the Tucson shooting into a complaint about people targeting her. These are not the things you do when you want to be taken seriously as a possible presidential candidate.

Some people despise Sarah Palin and/or think she is an idiot. I think she is a serious lightweight who loves the media/public attention and the idea of being president, not the actual work that comes with being President of the United States. She doesn’t have the mental stamina or fortitude to handle the job, though she probably doesn’t think she needs it. Palin seems to be a firm believer of guts over intelligence. That’s great if you’re picking who is going to win the Super Bowl, not so great when you have to decide whether to send Navy Seals into Pakistan to kill an international terrorist. There is a difference, though she probably wouldn’t see it.

Palin wasted an opportunity to be viewed as a thoughtful, smart and genuine candidate, even if you disagreed with her politics. Unfortunately for her, our image of her as a semi-dim cheerleader has not changed. She loves to blame others for how she is viewed and/or portrayed. Palin has yet to realize or accept that she has no one to blame but herself.

Note: Sarah Palin decided not to run as a potential GOP presidential candidate for the 2012 U.S. presidential election. Mitt Romney ended up becoming the GOP’s nominee. Romney lost the presidential election to to incumbent President Barack Obama.