Recently, the Republican National Committee released a report on the “Growth and Opportunity Project” that analyzes the 2012 Presidential loss and presents recommendations for changes in the party to prevent further national-level losses.
The report assesses demographic trends in the electorate and points to a couple weak spots in GOP support.
Women as a voting group receive much attention because while Mitt Romney won married women by 11 points over President Obama, he lost among all women by the same margin and by 36 points among single women.
The report asserts that the Republican Party must be more inclusive of women in GOP leadership, policy-making, and especially our communications.
Among the specific recommendations is that “our candidates, spokespeople and staff need to use language that addresses concerns that are on women’s minds,” and “Republicans need to talk about people and families, not just numbers and statistics.”
A recent press conference in which Republican Governor Nathan Deal announced his support for rolling back the required GPA for the HOPE Grant to technical students from 3.0 back to 2.0 highlights the difference in style between our Governor and a female Democratic State Representative, Stacey Evans, who supports the same legislation.
“After crunching the numbers with our budget department, I am glad to report that we will be able to lower the GPA requirement for the HOPE Grant back to 2.0 after having raised it to 3.0 two years ago. I believe that this additional benefit will help Georgia families that are trying to get ahead and will contribute to our workforce development,” said Gov. Deal.
Of course it is appropriate in the context of a legislative session dominated by the budget and trying to bring new jobs to Georgia for Gov. Deal to discuss the fiscal impacts of new legislation, and this was an official announcement, not a campaign event.
Much of the praise Governor Deal has received has been for his handling of fiscal issues involving state spending, and as a Republican, I want to hear both the financial impacts of changes like this, and how it fits into Gov. Deal’s continuing and successful efforts to bring new jobs to Georgia. On both counts, the Governor delivered.
But I’m a stalwart conservative, and I’m already on the team. To combat the perception of a media-created and sensationalized but fictitious “Republican War on Women” it will help if we consider how we can better connect with all Georgians when discussing conservative policy.
State Representative Stacey Evans provides a lesson on how that works. “More students will have access to the HOPE Grant and in turn, access to higher education. Most of our students in technical colleges will be first in their family to graduate from college. They come from lower income families; the difference between having the Grant and not having the Grant is the difference between their ticket to the middle class or not,” she said.
Rep. Evans successfully connects the HOPE Grant to the dreams and aspirations of many Georgians. Except for mentioning the GPA requirement, Evans’s speech eschews number recitation to focus on the benefits to individuals, while Gov. Deal also discusses lottery proceeds, trends in budget numbers, the cost of the Grant, numbers of students whose eligibility and enrollment in the technical school system.
Without the numbers working out, the expansion of HOPE Grant eligibility would not work either, and I’m not suggesting we shy away from the fiscal realities of budgeting with taxpayer dollars.
In one press conference, we see two politicians supporting the exact same legislation, but two entirely different styles of communicating about that measure. We also have a lesson in how Republicans might increase and broaden our support by changing the way we communicate without changing our principles.
If we can rethink the way we convey the benefits of conservative policies, we can connect conservative fiscal management with the hopes, dreams and aspirations of more Georgians in a way that lets more Georgians know that their needs are at the heart of what we do in managing our state. Covering the substance of the issues doesn’t have to mean neglecting the “sizzle” that sells the steak.