I don’t always agree with Hillary Clinton, but with recent talk of a female vice presidential candidate, I’m reminded of her words as she withdrew from the 2008 presidential race: “Although we weren’t able to shatter the highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it’s got about 18 million cracks in it.” It’s amazing to see women reach the brass ring, not just because of their gender, but also because of hard work and staying true to their values.
I grew up looking at the world through rose-colored glasses, believing I could be anything I wanted to be. My early dreams were to be either a bank teller or an archeologist. I later aspired to be a doctor, lawyer, or even President of the United States. By the grace of God, my kids share the same sense of optimism. When my daughter was five years old, she came home with a piece of paper that said, “When I grow up I want to be … president.” As a mother and woman, nothing encourages me more than to know that, in this country, we as females have the same chance as anyone to pursue our greatest dreams.
A new Fox News poll released Wednesday found 32 percent of Republicans say it’s most important for Governor Mitt Romney to pick a “true conservative” and 11 percent of GOP voters said they would most like to see a woman as Romney’s running mate. Will we see another female vice presidential candidate? First, Ann Romney told CBS News that female candidates are being considered as her husband’s running mate. Later, an unknown source dropped a hint into the media’s rumor mill that a top VP pick was former-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Strategically, Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee (CWALAC) strongly believes that choosing a woman is a smart move by the Romney campaign. According to a study conducted by Quinnipiac University, married women prefer Romney over President Obama by a 49-42 percent margin. Despite this lead, Romney has proven lackluster in attracting the single female voting bloc. With a 60-30 split among single women, a female vice president might increase his support among younger single women. However, simply choosing someone for their Y chromosome is not enough. She must be the right woman.
Ms. Condoleezza Rice is a brilliant leader, as we learned during her time working with the Bush Administration. However, as a VP choice that is pro-choice and weak on traditional values, she would garner little backing from social conservatives, a group among whom Romney desperately needs to raise trust and support. Nonetheless, Americans are talking again about the importance of a female vice presidential pick, and that’s a good thing.
Many conservative voters showed their willingness to get behind a female vice president back in 2008. While conservatives struggled to trust presidential candidate John McCain, they were unwavering in their support of Gov. Sarah Palin, a staunchly pro-life, outspoken conservative mother of five. PEW Research Center reports that in 2008, 85 percent of conservative Republicans favored Gov. Palin, while nearly half of all Americans (liberal and conservative) held a favorable opinion of Palin.
CWA has said all along that we need more conservative women representing our distinct voice in Congress, and I love the idea of having a woman in the role of vice president, but it’s just not that simple.
Simply put, gender alone does not make a woman a good vice president. For instance, Olympia Snow (R-Maine) would not be a good candidate. She was elected as a Republican, yet broke ranks with the party on the important issue of contraception. As conservatives, we should hope for a running mate who is consistent on the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, limited government, and fiscal responsibility. Male or female, Romney’s pick needs to be rock solid in areas where he is weak.
It’s also important for the vice president to relate to women and the challenges they are facing in today’s dire economic climate. Women have not done well under the Obama Administration. In her new book, Women’s Figures: An Illustrated Guide to the Economic Progress of Women in America, author Diana Furchtgott-Roth explains that the American economy has five million fewer jobs today than in December 2007, with women’s unemployment rates rising a full percentage point since President Obama took office.
Furchtgott-Roth goes on to note that women are naturally affected by poor economic conditions. For example, nearly 16 million more Americans were on food stamps in 2011 than in 2008, gasoline prices were $1.84 per gallon in January 2009, and almost double, $3.33, the week of July 4, 2012. Moreover, fifteen percent more Americans — primarily women — are receiving welfare benefits from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Program. Women don’t need special benefits; they need a growing economy.
In the 2010 mid-term elections, Republicans won the women’s vote for the first time since Ronald Reagan. This was not because women were simply voting for other women. Women were sick of the dismal direction Democrats were taking the nation and instead voted for candidates reflecting their values, regardless of gender.
Would I like to see another woman join the ranks of Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin as VP picks? Of course — but only if it’s the right person of strong moral character, with the strength to stay true to her conservative values. Will it happen? Time will tell. Excuse me as I put my rose colored glasses back on, silently hoping to see another woman — the right woman — break through the glass ceiling in the most important election of our lifetime.
Penny Young Nance is President and CEO of Concerned Women for America, the nation’s largest public policy women’s organization.