Although 2018 has seen a record-setting number of women register to run for office, the uptick in engagement appears to be mainly a Democratic phenomenon. So why aren't Republican women being inspired to run for Congress? One GOP congresswoman blames the White House for hindering women's engagement in the Republican party.
"The rhetoric of the White House is a recruiting tool for liberal women to counter that," Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who represents Florida's 27th District in the House of Representatives, told CNN. "It's inspiring Democratic women to run. Unfortunately, it's not inspiring Republican women to run."
Ros-Lehtinen argued the White House was partly to blame for the low numbers of Republican female candidates due to what she characterized as name calling. "Just stop with the name calling," the representative said. "It turns women off. It turns a lot of people off, but especially young women. They just say this is ugly."
While a seemingly unprecedented number of women have registered to run for office this year, reports show that it's the Democrat Party that's seeing most of the action. Data collected by the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers University found that out of the 440 women planning to run for election to the House of Representatives, less than half are members of the Republican Party. In fact, 332 of those women are Democrats while just 108 are registered as Republican.
Although Democratic female candidates still outnumbered Republican women in Senate races, the gap between the parties was smaller — 32 Democrats compared to 22 Republicans. But these numbers appear to represent an ongoing problem for the GOP. According to CNN, Republicans haven't seen much of a change in women's engagement in the party despite the uptick in women interested in running for office.
Yet Ros-Lehtinen isn't the only one to think the White House may be negatively contributing to the low number of Republican female candidates currently being seen. "I've often thought that, if you were an organizer out there trying to organize what is called the resistance or the women organizing the women who are thinking about running, Donald Trump is the gift that keeps on giving in terms of motivation to stay engaged and stay involved and not lose your enthusiasm," CAWP director Deborah Walsh told NPR earlier this year.
She claimed Democratic women were being energized by a number of issues, including the Trump administration's health care and immigration policies as well as allegations of sexual harassment and domestic abuse that have involved both the president and other members of the White House staff.
Ros-Lehtinen, who will retire later this year, also bemoaned the low number of Republican women currently serving in Congress. "It is sad, it is depressing. And the numbers are getting worse," Ros-Lehtinen said. According to data from CAWP, women currently make up roughly 9.6 percent of Republicans in Congress. Conversely, women make up 32.5 percent of Democrats serving in Congress.
Other Republican congresswomen, like Rep. Martha McSally, have also expressed a desire to see more women serving in Congress. "I think we need more women in office for sure," McSally recently told CNN. "We need to represent the diversity of our country, right? The more women we can have running and winning, the better off we'll be."
Ros-Lehtinen echoed a similar message in the stark warning she issued to her fellow Republican Party members via comments to CNN: "As long as we're seen as a party that's homogenous, not heterogeneous, a party that doesn't invite minorities and women, a party that excludes folks that may disagree with us a little bit, we're not going to be a welcoming party for the future," she said. "And that's to our detriment."