Concerned Women for America, a grass-roots organization that’s been around since 1979, is making its first national ad buy on the debt and Washington’s big spenders:
The ad will run in four states — Nebraska, Ohio, Montana and Florida, all states that have vulnerable incumbent Democratic senators up for reelection in 2012.
I spoke to CWA’s executive director, Penny Nance, by phone yesterday. CWA has 500,000 members in 600 chapters across the country, and is staffed almost entirely by volunteer activists. CWA has not traditionally been associated with fiscal issues. Why an ad now and on this topic? She told me, “I think American women have come to the conclusion our children are at risk.” Nance’s members are now engaged, perhaps more strongly than ever, as they see the rising mound of debt and consider its impact on future generations. As for tone, Nance says, “Sometimes the best way to get a point across is with humor.”
While her focus is on the immediate debt debate in the Senate, she readily concedes her organization has a broader focus. She says that given the amount of debt we’ve racked up “today, tomorrow and for a long time,” the issue will be front and center.
I asked her why polls show the public is enamored of both raising taxes and cutting spending. She made a point not readily discussed in the war of words over polls: “If a tax increase is presented as a tax on corporate jets, of course they will be fine with it.” However, she argued, once they learn that two-thirds of small businesses pay at the individual rates and would be adversely affected, “You’ll find a different response on taxes.”
Nance says after the ad runs she will assess the results and then decide on whether to run more ads. Her group supports the “cut, cap and balance” approach that passed the House on Tuesday and hopes to energize her activists to let senators know their views.
Under the leadership of Nance (an experienced conservative activist and former adviser to the FCC who is now a frequent guest on cable news shows), CWA may raise its national profile. She characterized the group as “faith-based” and conservative. But it is telling that a group that is often labeled simply as “social conservatives,” plainly has an agenda that extends beyond marriage, abortion and gay rights. Just as the Tea Party has an economic agenda but is populated by many social conservatives, CWA members have a full range of concerns.
In the past CWA has been active in presidential election years. Last year, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) made an appearance at a CWA event. Rick Santorum is due to speak in September and other candidate appearances are expected.
Republican contenders who want to win over these women voters would be wise to not limit their remarks to social issues. Rather, they need to relate tax and spending policies with womens’ economic concerns. It is those issues that certainly will be a critical part of their selection of a presidential nominee.