Number of Elected GOP Women May Shrink. NewsWire

10/01/20 07:00AM EDT

newswire: 10/1/2020

  • Though record numbers of women hold or are running for political office, the vast majority of them are Democrats. The number of Republican women in Congress is the lowest it's been since the mid-1990s, and if the 2020 races go as polls predict, the party could become even more male. (The Economist)
    • As of 2020, there are more women in Congress than ever before. But both parties aren't equally contributing to this growth. Of the 127 women in Congress, 83% are Democrats, while only 17% are Republicans.
    • The last four years have been difficult for elected Republican women. After the 2018 mid-terms, Republican women in the House fell from 23 to 13. This year, that number is likely to rise, probably not all the way back to 23. Meanwhile nine Republican women are up for reelection in the Senate, and four of them are in jeopardy. Susan Collins, Martha McSally, Kelly Loeffler, and Joni Ernst are all in the races of their lives.
    • As The Economist points out, many of these women are establishment politicians and are hurt by their moderate conservatism. If they are in a purple district or state, their inevitable association with Trump's unfiltered populism can scare off swing voters. And if they are deep in the red-zone, their very moderation triggers a backlash from Trump's base. 
    • But in one sense, The Economist's analysis gets it wrong. The article implies that women are no longer interested in running as Republicans. In fact, 217 Republican women ran in House primaries this year, smashing the previous record of 111 set back in 2010. It is true that of the 77 who won their primaries, most are expected to lose the general election. Nevertheless, there are still lots of GOP women trying to get elected. 
    • Notably many of the female newcomers who are now winning their GOP primaries are Xers who running as hard-right conservatives. They list Sarah Palin (born 1964) as their political hero and take pride in being called outsiders, ordinary moms, or even "momma grizzlies." (See "GOP Party of Outsiders.") While many are running in districts that they have little chance of winning, they still want to make a political statement. No one would mistake them for a consensus-minded moderate--the likes of Susan Collins or Lisa Murkowski.
    • It's hard to say if fewer elected GOP women will hurt the image of Republican party. According to Pew Research, after all, Trump is in danger in 2020 not because of a decline in women voters (relative to 2016), but a decline in male voters. (See "Around The States In 50 Days.") And after all the talk about the record number of women running in the Democratic presidential primary, none of them gained noteworthy traction among Democratic voters--who still ended up picking a man. This suggests that gender isn't many voters' first concern.
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