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GOP seeks army of female volunteers to counter Democratic attacks


Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus attends the organization’s winter meeting in Washington. The  RNC was preparing a new effort to build support among women. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

In the Obama era, Democrats usually have had two major advantages: women and volunteers.  This year, Republicans are trying to change that, seeking to amass an army of young volunteer women who can carry the GOP message and counter the “war on women” rhetoric that has been so effective for Democrats.

Fresh off a week in which Democrats made clear that a key part of their midterm message will be equal pay, Republicans are set to begin their own efforts to woo women to the polls, focusing on counties that went blue in 2012 and could tip the balance in November.

In West Virginia on Monday morning, Sharon Day, co-chairman of the Republican National Committee, will launch “14 in ’14,” a program that will focus on younger women in suburban areas that lean blue.  The idea is to sign up women who will commit 30 minutes per week in the 14 weeks before the election, making calls, recruiting other women, identifying voters and getting people to the polls.

Republicans have been dogged by criticism that their party is out of touch with women. In a CNN poll in February, 55 percent of respondents said they didn’t understand women, a figure that jumps to 64 percent among women older than 50, a group that has traditionally been more Republican.

Day will announce the new effort in Charleston, W.Va., with Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, who is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Democrat John D. Rockefeller IV, who is retiring.

“Women are a very important part of the electorate and the RNC is very serious about engaging,” Day said. “The Democrats have relied on desperate attacks and we are going to aggressively work to correct the record and build relationships with women voters.”

Democrats are more focused on single women, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently announced that it will use a national computer model that can predict voters’ marital status.

Last week, Republicans were on the offensive, introducing amendments and criticizing the White House for its own pay gap among West Wing staffers, as Democrats held a vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which did not get the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster.

Monday’s efforts come as Republicans have expanded the Senate map, with competitive races not only in red states, but also in purple states such as Colorado,  Michigan, New Hampshire and Virginia. With this effort, the RNC is targeting 25 counties out 300 in 10 states with Senate, congressional and gubernatorial races.

Here is the list of the first round of targeted states and counties: Arkansas (Pulaski), Florida (Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Leon, Pinellas), Georgia (Cobb, Gwinnett), Louisiana (East Baton Rouge, Jefferson, New Orleans), Michigan (Oakland, Wayne), Montana (Yellowstone), North Carolina (Mecklenberg, Wake), Ohio (Cuhahoga, Lake, Mahoning), Pennsylvania (Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Chester, Montgomery), West Virginia (Kanawha, Cabell).

Nia-Malika Henderson is a political reporter for The Fix.

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