Single Republican Women a Growing Voting Block?
Virginia Republican National Convention delegate Erin Smith of Single Women for Romney hopes to edge out the Democrats' competition for single women's votes by carving out a place for herself, and others like her, in the party. She believes if she can't, the GOP will suffer losing ground with the fastest growing segment of the voting population.
In fact, single women compound the three-decade gender gap for Republicans who cannot overcome President Obama's commanding lead, though older single women could be a growth opportunity because they respond well to the "ownership society" message.
Smith's mission began when the 30-something found herself in the minority in her party after her divorce.
"I remained a Republican, even though statistically, you're married as a Republican woman," she said, speaking Wednesday to BlogHer at the Tampa Convention Center. "I'm sensitive to the chatter within the Republican Party that's very much weighted toward married women.
"The conversation is all about the nuclear family and taking care of your husbands," Smith continued, perhaps referencing Ann Romney's remarks celebrating the classic American family. "[But] the nuclear family has shrunk by 11 percent in the last 20 years. If we don't win over single women then we're not going to be as successful at winning elections."
Unfortunately, the busy single life doesn't lend itself to being the reliable, high-propensity GOP voters married women are, she said. But she believes strongly that the Republican Party has a lot to say to single women, and she wants single women to know that.
The odds are against Smith's mission.
About 25 percent of the voting population are single women -- and roughly 70 percent of them voted Democrat in the last presidential election, Smith said.
She understands the gap this way: "The Republican Party has competition from the Democratic Party in that they offer those short-term solutions to specific voter groups -- freebies and handouts and entitlements -- that may alleviate a short-term anxiety in someone's life but won't necessarily solve long-term problems, like finding jobs or stimulating the economy," she said. It is true that single women who are also mothers are the most economically stressed segment of the population.
Though, Smith admits her challenge isn't just in educating single women, but the party she is a fan of, as well.
"It's an educational curve that I'm on," she said, with a laugh. "Just letting elected officials and the media know that single women need to feel the security of a good economy, too, is important. And if the Republican Party can't understand and address our day-to-day stresses, then we will look to the Democrats who will offer something to alleviate those stresses."
For the single moms she meets, economic strain has put enormous pressure on their being able to support their children and provide a good, quality education, making a government safety net a survival necessity for many, she said.
"I'm not saying the Republican Party won't be there to support you in hard times if you can't make ends meet," she said. "Democrats speak to these women's lives better, because they're offering short-term possibilities -- not because they're offering long-term lifestyles.
"So I think what people need to do it take a step back and say what are my long-term goals and long-term dreams, and can I achieve them if we don't have a thriving economy? And that's where Mitt Romney comes into play," Smith continued. "He can fix and turn around this economy. That's not going to happen under the current Obama administration -- he has offered no solutions to fix the economy."
Clearly, the RNC's agenda is focused heavily on women, who will play a huge role in deciding this election. The party even included a so-called "Ladies' Night."
But as Smith pointed out, not all "ladies" were represented.
"There was a young Republican woman speaking, but she was representing a different voter group," she said.
"It is more challenging [to get attention] in an established party, but I see a lot of young people at this convention. It's not the common stereotype of being all old men -- there's a nice cross-section of all ages," she said. "Now we need to see single women run for office and get their voices out there."
Follow BlogHer Contributing Editor Erica Holloway @erica_holloway.