Suntan Lotion, Not ‘Social Issues,’ the Priority on GOP Women2Women Tour

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Suntan Lotion, Not ‘Social Issues,’ the Priority on GOP Women2Women Tour

Erin Matson

Republicans continue to grapple with ways to attract more women voters, even in reliably conservative states.

Republicans fighting to gain credibility with women voters have found a new issue to hang their hats on: suntan lotion.

Later this month Main Street Advocacy will launch a Women2Women tour with a town hall targeting women voters in Charlotte. Recent statewide polling shows Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) holds a slim lead in the polls over state House Speaker Thom Tillis.

An Elon Poll found “the gender gap in North Carolina is quite wide,” with 52 percent of women planning to vote for Hagan and 33 percent for Tillis, a margin that grows among single women to 65 percent over 18 percent.

On the issue of abortion, 44 percent said they favored fewer restrictions on abortion and 40 percent favored more. This September poll affirmed an April poll that first showed the emergence of a relative majority in North Carolina that prefers liberalizing laws on abortion.

Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.

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Abortion rights and a gender gap in voting preferences are not what Sarah Chamberlain, the Women2Women initiative’s leader, plans to talk about. “We’re not here to touch the third rail, and they [the targeted women attendees] know that going in,” she told Roll Call. “We’re not here to talk about the social issues.”

In an interview with WBTV, a CBS affiliate in Charlotte, Chamberlain clarified further those issues she says affect women and should motivate them to get out to vote:

The first one is twenty-first century cures, which is trying to get the government out of the way of the scientists, as they begin to find cures for cancer specifically; suntan lotion, trying to improve the quality of suntan lotion so melanoma goes down in this country, so just issues like that.

Chamberlain is chief operating officer of Main Street Advocacy, a lobby group that is affiliated with the Republican Main Street Partnership.

That group is led by former Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH) and calls itself “the governing wing of the Republican Party.”

A video promoting the Women2Women tour on Main Street Advocacy’s website features Chamberlain stressing the importance of the economy to women. It includes footage on a sunny day at several prominent locations in the downtown area and Dupont Circle neighborhoods of Washington, D.C, where Chamberlain concludes “we’re bringing main street to you.”

In October the town hall will travel to Tucson, where Rep. Ron Barber (D-AZ) faces Republican challenger Martha McSally in a race Real Clear Politics ranks as a toss up, and Jamestown, New York, where Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) faces Democrat Martha Robertson in a tight race that leans Republican.

Republican leaders have struggled to appeal to women voters as they become increasingly known for efforts to restrict access to abortion and contraception, as well making inaccurate or controversial comments about  pregnancy and rape.

An August report commissioned by the conservative groups Crossroads GPS and American Action Network found the party “intolerant” and “stuck in the past,” with nearly half of women viewing Republicans unfavorably.

In that poll, women voters looked at policy proposals on charter schools and flexible work schedules that had been promoted by House Republican leaders as a way to attract them, and then ranked them as least popular.

On Monday, Republicans in the Senate blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act (S.2199), which Irin Carmon of MSNBC reports is the fourth time they have voted against the equal pay bill in the past two years.

Main Street has not responded to an email from Rewire requesting comment on how the group would handle discussions of abortion, contraception, or equal pay legislation during the Women2Women speaking tour.