How Do You Attract Women Voters? Don’t Call Your Female Opponent an “Empty Dress”
Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell is still facing a primary challenger in order to get the Republican party nomination for keeping his seat in the senate. But that hasn’t stopped the GOP from attacking his likely Democratic rival, Alison Lundergan Grimes. The newest talking point from his camp? She’s an “empty dress” who “babbles incoherently.”
According to The Hill, Sen. McConnell has been “adopting a ‘Whac-A-Mole’ strategy in his campaign, hitting opponents hard and fast,” a tactic that may be leading Lundergan Grimes to speak mostly in generalities without at this point offering specific agenda items. The National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee is being more aggressively gendered in their analysis, with one spokesman calling her an “empty dress.”
“Alison Lundergan Grimes seems incapable of articulating her own thoughts, and faced with questions, either directly parrots the talking points handed to her by [Sen.] Chuck Schumer or she babbles incoherently and stares blankly into the camera as though she’s a freshman in high school struggling to remember the CliffsNotes after forgetting to read her homework assignment,” communications director Brad Dayspring told the publication.
Lundergan Grimes’ campaign was not amused. “This degrading and offensive comment from McConnell’s campaign team is appalling and he should condemn it immediately,” said campaign spokeswoman Charly Norton in a statement. “It shows his team’s true feelings towards women and continues his disgraceful pattern of not standing up for the women of Kentucky. From misleading Kentuckians on his votes against the Violence Against Women Act, to voting against equal pay for equal work, Senator McConnell has failed to lead on issues important to women and their families.”
This isn’t Sen. McConnell and his allies’ first foray into gendered attacks on women candidates. When the campaign was caught on tape discussing a possible run by actress Ashley Judd, the members gleefully recounted the number of ways they could portray her as emotionally unstable, a radical feminist who stands in the way of Christian traditional values, and even bothered by “pink fuzzy socks.”
Sen. McConnell’s team is working hard to polish his image with Kentucky women, including a recent “Women for Mitch” event lead by his own wife. However, as an editorial in the Kentucky Courier-Journal noted, it’s one thing to tout your record of sponsoring the Violence Against Women Act in 1990, or letting a staffer with a child take paid time off to care for him, but instead vote against VAWA’s final passage just this last session or refuse to support the Family Medical Leave Act.
To keep his seat, Sen. McConnell needs to remember that women voters aren’t impressed by historical support or stump speeches. They are concerned about a politician’s current vote in congress, and the way he responds to all of the women in his life — including his challengers. That’s not something that can be easily fixed by a rally.