Year of the Republican woman

Year of the Republican woman
© Greg Nash/Getty Images

What’s the biggest takeaway from the midterm elections?

That relationships can change. With work and better communication, they can change, improve, deepen.

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That’s what happened with Republicans and women this year. In 2012, President Obama won the women’s vote by 11 percentage points, 55 percent to Mitt Romney’s 44 percent. On Nov. 7, 2012, some political analysts suggested perhaps Republicans had lost the women’s vote forever.

Stories of the relationship’s decline were premature.

Republicans didn’t eliminate the gender gap, but we narrowed it significantly — and it’s why we won key races.

What happened?

Well, the first issue was the White House. A late October CNN poll found 49 percent of women approved of Obama’s job performance, down from 55 percent in the final CNN poll before Election Day 2012. A Harvard poll of Americans ages 18 to 29 showed only 45 percent of young women approved of the president’s job performance, while an ABC poll revealed the president hit an “empathy low” in October — fewer Americans than ever before said Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaThe mullahs seek to control uncontrolled chaos Poll: Majority of Democrats thinks Obama was better president than Washington Obama urges Americans to get health coverage in new holiday video MORE understood the problems of people like them.

But Tuesday’s results are more than a love gone sour. They’re about the substance each party has to offer.

Women rejected the very foundation of Democrats’ 2014 strategy: the so-called war on women. That’s because the “war” is nothing more than a political tactic.

This election cycle, women saw that the Republican Party is more than Democratic rhetoric. They saw newly elected Reps. Barbara Comstock (Va.-10), Mia Love (Utah-4) and Elise Stefanik (N.Y.-21) — the youngest woman ever elected to Congress — and Senator-elect Joni Ernst (Iowa), who offered real solutions to all of the issues that women care about: jobs and the economy, the size of government and the national debt, healthcare and national security.

These women, and the many others who ran on the GOP ticket, offered optimism and substance. Republicans won the women’s vote in the 1980 and 1984 elections when then-President Reagan promised America was still a “city on a hill” and offered a roadmap to get our economy back on track and to win the Cold War. We won the women’s vote in 1988, too. And this election proved we can do so again.

I know women agree with our party’s principles of individual freedom, equal opportunity, a strong national defense and choice in healthcare, and because Democrats also showed this cycle how little they really think of women. 

As a party, Democrats stood silent as their gubernatorial candidate in South Carolina accidentally called the female governor a “whore” — and then laughed about his gaffe. They were silent when their candidate in Virginia’s 10th District said Comstock, a lawyer and entrepreneur, never had “a real job.” (Comstock is a mom to three children as well — that’s a real job!) And Democrats said nothing when it was revealed their standard bearer in Iowa, Sen. Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinNew Hampshire parochialism, not whiteness, bedevils Democrats Democrats must question possible political surveillance Wisconsin lawmaker gets buzz-cut after vowing not to cut hair until sign language bill passed MORE, derisively compared Ernst’s appearance to a 24-year-old pop icon.

These comments are offensive enough, but the real problem was that Democrats lied to Americans about the centerpiece of their agenda: the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Despite repeated promises by Democrats, 5 million Americans lost their coverage and doctors because of the ACA.

Democrats also offered no policy solutions to women outside of promising government-financed birth control.

Access to quality and comprehensive healthcare is a serious issue, but women are more than their birth control, and to pretend they are not for political gain is demeaning.

Now, to my party I say: our work with women is far from over. We would be foolish to think it is. We must continue to make the case for why the GOP is the clear choice for women. And while this cycle we elected new women to the U.S. House and Senate, we still have far fewer Republican women in Congress than Democrats do. We need to work harder to earn women’s votes and get them on our tickets.

But in 2014 we proved that our message of individual freedom, equal opportunity, a strong national defense and choice in healthcare resonates with women voters.

We should carry that message into 2016 — because it’s a winning one. 

Toretti is founder of the Women Lead PAC, an RNC national committeewoman and board member of the Republican State Leadership Committee. She is former chairwoman of the Committee of 200, an organization of the most influential female CEOs in the world, and a former RNC Finance Committee co-chairwoman.