Fiorina to head new PAC aimed at recruiting more women to the GOP

Al Cardenas, the chairman of the American Conservatives Union, and Carly Fiorina, the chairwoman of CPAC 2014, both say the conservative conference has plenty of female involvement. (Jeff Simon/The Washington Post)

A prominent Republican woman will head up a new political action committee aimed at engaging women in the upcoming midterm elections and closing the gender gap for the GOP.

Carly Fiorina, chairwoman of the American Conservative Union Foundation and a former U.S. Senate candidate, will lead the Unlocking Potential Project, the latest effort by Republicans to expand their appeal among women – particularly those who are political independents.

Fiorina will lead a team to “develop and shape messaging on a wide range of issues that directly relate to independent female voters,” according to a background memo on the new group.

To improve the GOP’s grass-roots ground game, the project will recruit women to help form activist groups in states with competitive Senate races — such as Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Virginia — to spread the Republican message.

“We have studied the successful campaigns and movements that have applied targeted and personal grassroots efforts to stimulate positive action,” the memo said. “They focus on real interactions; door-to-door and person-to-person contacts, and not just television advertising.”

The group will also focus on how the message is delivered, aiming to go beyond “raw number of voter contacts” and traditional GOP efforts.

“We will make aggressive use of data mining operations and work to hone micro-targeted messages that will resonate with voters,” the memo said.

The Unlocking Potential Project is one of several women-centric initiatives launched in the years after the 2012 election. The Democratic message of the “war on women” contributed to big losses among women for the GOP that year – including President Obama’s 36-point victory over Republican nominee Mitt Romney among single women.

The National Republican Congressional Committee launched Project GROW – short for Growing Republican Opportunities for Women — last year to recruit, mentor, train and promote female candidates.

This year, Marlene Colucci, a former aide to George W. Bush, launched RightNOW PAC to help recruit young women who would get involved in the Republican Party.

But while the number of these efforts has increased, there seems to be a disconnect between attracting female voters and continuing to showcase female politicians on a regular basis.

In March, Fiorina defended the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference after facing criticism for the small number of women who were featured speakers.

“We are very proud of the women in this movement. We highlight the women in this movement,” she said. “If you look around this hall and look at the number of women of all ages who are here, and I think the only thing you can conclude is that this is a very heterogeneous, both, set of speakers and panelists as well as participants, and we are very proud of that.”

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Joann Weiner · June 28, 2014

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