How the Republican Party Can Win Back Women

The Republican Party can become the home of women if it shows that its policies are for all Americans.

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Many of us were surprised by the election results—shocked that Americans voted to maintain a status quo that many feel is leading to economic ruin, and stunned that voters did not see the Republican candidate as a reasonable alternative to President Obama.

Republicans did especially poorly with Hispanics and young people, and according to Gallup, were on the losing end of the biggest gender gap in polling history. The 20-point margin, which takes into account the proportion of women who voted for Obama and the proportion of men who voted for Romney, is the largest since Gallup began measuring the gender gap in 1952. Because more women than men vote, Republicans need to think about how and why they're losing the women's vote by such massive numbers if they want to put together a winning coalition for the future.

What's exacerbating the gender gap is a huge divide called the "values gap"—attitudes on everything from government and business to the environment and social issues that determine which party one backs in the voting booth, according to the Pew Research Center.

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The left is arguing that there is a "new America" now, that people have changed. That's not my experience. None of my core views have changed in three decades in politics: I've always been a limited-government, states-rights advocate; a fiscal hawk; a supporter of equal rights for all Americans, including same-sex couples; a pro-free-market optimist; prolife with exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother; and a peace-through-strength conservative. I'm a second-generation immigrant who believes that immigrants are key to the greatness of this nation; a married mom with kids; a church-going Catholic. I volunteer regularly because I believe charities do a better job than the government helping people who need a hand. I've worked in a Republican White House and at the Republican National Committee; this cycle I wrote speeches for, among other clients, a Tea Partyer who was elected to office. I've never been a bra-burning, far-left liberal. And I vote Republican.

Like many women, my attitudes haven't changed; what's changed over those three decades are the Republican and Democratic parties and their approach to women. One way to measure that change is to take Pew's Political Party Quiz, which is based on the questions asked of thousands of Americans this year in its American Values survey. Participants are asked to either mostly or completely agree or disagree with each of 12 statements on economic and social issues, in order to answer the question, "Where do you fit in the electorate?"

[Take the U.S. News Poll: Do the Senate Race Outcomes Prove a GOP Problem With Women?]

When I took the quiz, it declared that I am an "average Republican overall"— to the right of moderates and left of the Tea Party. But when you take a look at where I fit economically and socially, it gets interesting: I'm to the right of most Republicans on economic issues, to the left of most Democrats on social issues. By gender, I'm with the men on economic issues, the women on social. By age, I'm with the 90-year-olds on economic questions, with the 18-year-olds socially. By religion, I'm as far to the right of Christian evangelicals on the economy as one can get; I vote with the atheists on social questions. By candidate, I'm a "certain Romney voter" economically, a "certain Obama voter" on social questions.

What this tells me is that married, prolife women like me who consider themselves mainstream, "reasonable" Republicans are being pulled in two different directions. The Republican Party is not providing a "big tent" home for us anymore. Retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison rightly pointed out that the GOP has to stop treating the women's vote like a "throwaway."

A friend recently told me that when her 12-year-old daughter saw a "Moms for Mitt" bumper sticker, she said, "Mom, that lady should just have a bumper sticker that says, 'I'm an idiot.'" When 12-year-old girls are saying things like that, you know Republicans have a big problem.