As if to underscore GOP efforts at outreach to female voters, a breakout session of the Republican National Committee's latest "rising stars" at the group's winter meeting Thursday in Washington, D.C., entirely comprised young women.
There were Alex Smith, a law school student who is the first woman elected national chair of the College Republicans in its 120-year history; Chelsi P. Henry, an African-American conservative activist who grew up on welfare; Kimberly Yee, an Asian-American state senator from Arizona; Monica Youngblood, a Latina New Mexico state representative; and Alison Howard, communications director of the Concerned Women for America.
The GOP's own officials have increasingly faulted its leadership for lacking the kind of diversity and positive message that would attract women, younger voters and minorities. And almost as though he was there to prove the need for such new voices, Thursday's RNC luncheon speaker — radio host, 2008 presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee — caused an Internet ruckus with this controversial comment:
"If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control, because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it."
The "rising stars" weren't asked by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, or anyone else for that matter, to react to that part of Huckabee's remarks. They did say, however, that they agreed that Republicans should flip the Democrats' charge that Republicans are waging a "war on women" and argue that Republicans are fighting a "war for women."
"The war on women is directly the left's attempt to narrow women down to one-issue voters, and that's not true," said Howard, of Concerned Women for America. "But the war for women is an attempt for women's vote. Because it is a large demographic, a huge voting bloc, and we should be honored so much that people are trying to figure out enough what we care about to speak to us."
Howard also said: "If there's a war on women, it's the Little Sisters of the Poor, that group of Catholic nuns who were being forced to sue the [Obama] administration because they were being asked to fund something that they disagreed with. That this administration was forcing Catholic nuns to pay for birth control when they have taken a vow of chastity should enrage us as women and as men, protectors of life."
Smith, of the College Republican National Committee, advised Republicans to more carefully tailor their message to younger voters.
Many younger voters don't recoil at the word "big" when it's next to "government," the way older voters do, Smith said. "The problem is, for younger voters, big isn't scary. Big is this," she said, holding up her smartphone.
"Big is getting about a million followers on Twitter and being able to send a message out to all of them in an instant," Smith said. "What is scary to younger voters is an intrusive government. So again, it's just about the language that we use to describe this."