Campaign Daughters: A New Strategy for Women’s Outreach

(We’ve certainly taken Massachusetts to the next level haven’t we Rachel.  Looking forward to seeing you and the DCYR crew up here this weekend!!! – promoted by Rob “EaBo Clipper” Eno)

Of all the news coming out of the Massachusetts special election over the past week, one story should be of particular interest to female political observers. As the polls tighten, the race has garnered national attention – and who is coming to Scott Brown’s defense? Not just the national GOP, the Party’s grassroots, and third-party groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the Tea Party Express – this week Scott Brown’s  own daughters may be his knights in shining armor, especially when it comes to women’s outreach.

A Coakley ad released earlier this week charged that Scott Brown “favors letting hospitals deny emergency contraception to rape victims.” Yesterday, the Brown campaign started running a radio ad featuring Ayla and Arianna Brown, who call the claims that their father supports policies that hurt women “out of line.”  In their ad, Brown’s daughters say, “Martha Coakley and her supporters are saying hurtful and dishonest things about our dad.”

In an interview with the Boston Herald earlier this week, Ayla came out strong against her father’s opponent: “Martha Coakley’s new negative ad represents everything that discourages young women from getting involved in politics, and as a young woman, I’m completely offended by that.”

We’ve seen this strategy before. Just last fall in Virginia, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell faced charges that a graduate thesis he wrote twenty years ago suggested that working women undermined the family. Democrats tried to paint McDonnell as sexist and anti-woman. In response, McDonnell’s daughter Jeanine took to the airwaves with a TV ad defending her dad.

In the ad, Jeanine, a former Army platoon leader in Iraq, praised her father for encouraging his three daughters to be independent and achieve their goals. “He has worked to protect women and children from sexual predators and fight domestic violence,” she stated.

It worked. In November, 54 percent of women voted for Bob McDonnell. The Republican Governor-elect even won self-described working women. Of the 28 percent of women who indicated in the exit poll that they worked full time for pay, McDonnell won with 51 percent.  

Is this trend of using campaign daughters a new GOP strategy for attracting women voters? It may be – especially if Brown is successful in garnering a significant percentage of the female vote in Tuesday’s special election. Unlike Virginia, in Massachusetts a male candidate is using the strategy against a female candidate, and it remains to be seen what impact Coakley’s gender and the Brown daughters’ ads will have in the polls that matter on Election Day.

In the meantime, Facebook offers a glimpse into grassroots excitement and momentum behind the opposing campaigns’ women’s outreach efforts. The Facebook group “Women for Brown” has 1,807 members; the “Women for Coakley” fan page, on the other hand, only has 110 members.

Rachel Hoff is a young Republican activist based in Washington, DC. She tweets @rachelhoff814.

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