Campaign launched to counter ‘manufactured’ war on women

527 organization formed to reach unaffiliated women voters
The Colorado Statesman

Countering what she terms a “manufactured War on Women,” a veteran El Paso County GOP operative has launched an advertising campaign aimed at persuading women to vote Republican instead of getting distracted by emotional appeals from Democrats.

“Our goal is to give women an alternate message than what they’re hearing,” said Laura Carno, founder of the group I Am Created Equal. “We want to help them see that Republican candidates are going to give them more power and control over their own lives.”

“Hey, Washington politicians, how ’bout this: I’ll take care of my insurance, I’ll decide what soda to drink and I’ll get my own birth control, thank you very much,” says the narrator of a 60-second radio spot that began airing last week on Colorado Springs stations.

“There are two types of Washington politicians: those who misunderstand women, and those who pander to them,” reads a display on the I Am Created Equal website. The group, which launched on July 4, boosts Republican candidates with advertising aimed at unaffiliated women voters in Colorado.
Artwork supplied by I Am Created Equal

The ad’s narrator then addresses President Barack Obama: “You were supposed to understand all of this. But you spend more, waste more and get less done than anyone I can remember. In my world, you leave me with two choices — I can stop believing in my country, or I can give the other guy a try.”

“Our basic message,” Carno told The Colorado Statesman, “is, ‘Washington, you do your stuff, I’ll do my stuff.’”

Carno said she formed the 527 organization to reach unaffiliated women voters who aren’t obsessed with politics — “that golden group we want to get on our side if we want to win,” she says — partly because she didn’t see Republicans offering an effective response to liberal fear-mongering.

“The Left has tried to make this about a ‘War on Women.’ Republicans are doing their best, but it’s not with a message that’s really resonating,” she said, adding, “I don’t think they’re speaking in a language that’s relevant to unaffiliated women.”

The GOP strategist and the Obama campaign agree on at least one thing: Unaffiliated women voters could be the key to winning crucial swing state Colorado’s nine electoral votes and, with them, the presidency.

Laura Carno

“Because women are a majority, we decide elections,” said Kate Chapek, the Obama campaign’s national women’s vote director at the national launch of what the campaign is calling the Women Vote 2012 Summit, a rally held late last month in Wheat Ridge.

Carno doesn’t dispute that, though she says Democrats are wrong to assume that they have figured out what issues motivate women voters.

Women voters, “an absolute majority” in Colorado, “is a population that deserves to have the information they need to make their decisions and not be toyed with, with really emotional messages,” she said.

Democrats are hoping for a replay of the Colorado’s 2010 U.S. Senate election, when Democrat Michael Bennet’s double-digit margin among women handed him a win over challenger Ken Buck, defying big GOP gains nationwide, by painting the Republican as “too extreme” on issues such as abortion and birth control.

Carno said her research paints a different picture for this year’s election.

“The math is the proof of why we have to engage these women — they are the majority. I’d like them to know how much power they have to make these decisions. Helping to inform them in non-inflammatory ways is better than toying with them,” she said.

The Obama campaign this week launched a TV ad targeting women voters in Colorado and other battleground states attacking presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney for his positions on access to abortion and birth control.

“Every woman who believes decisions about our bodies and our health care should be our own is troubled that Mitt Romney supports overturning Roe versus Wade,” the 30-second spot says. “Romney backed a law that outlaws all abortion — even in cases of rape and incest.” It also blasts Romney for his call to end federal funding to Planned Parenthood.

An earlier Obama ad that aired heavily in Colorado touted the President’s support for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill he signed after taking office.

Carno says that Democrats are barking up the wrong tree if they think those issues will sway crucial swing voters.

Based on “access to focus groups,” Carno said she believes that unaffiliated women, by and large, aren’t that interested in what the Obama campaign is selling.

“Unaffiliated women are saying birth control not an issue with them — they buy their birth control and move on with their lives,” she said. In addition, she added, the same women are “overwhelmingly annoyed they were used as pawns in this quote-unquote ‘War on Women.’” Birth control, she said her target audience believes, “is just a purchase, it’s just a product.”

Instead, Carno said that women are more concerned with pocketbook issues and the state of the economy.

In order to address those concerns, she said, her ad campaign will be “talking to women about relevant issues in a way that respects the strength of women in their day-to-day lives — managing their families, managing their businesses, making health care and education decisions.”

Carno said she is designing her advertising campaign to stand out in a sea of political spots already swamping the airwaves.

“What sets it apart,” she said, “is this is not at all rising to the level of negative campaigning people are accustomed to. It’s thought-provoking, but it’s not mean-spirited, it doesn’t have the Friday the 13th music in it.”

The Karl Rove-driven Super PAC American Crossroads on Wednesday released a web video hitting some of the same points, though in a more traditional campaign-ad style.

“There is a ‘War on Women’ in America, and it’s hurting real women every day,” the narrator says as alarm-ing graphics splash across the screen.

During “Obama’s so-called recovery,” the Crossroads ad says, women have lost jobs even while men have gained them. “Some people say there’s a War on Women. We agree. It’s a war being waged in our economy.”

After seeding the new organization with her own money, Carno said she has plans to raise upwards of $3 million to run television and radio advertising through the election and is courting donors.

“Those are the sorts of numbers necessary to get the message out across Colorado,” she said.

The organization’s advisory board includes former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez and Republican National Committeeman and former State Treasurer Mark Hillman.

“I have the right message and am taking the leap of faith in the free market of ideas that people will want to invest in getting it out,” Carno said, adding that some donors have already approached her with the suggestion she broaden the ad campaign to other battleground states.

Ernest@coloradostatesman.com