More than 100 Republican women on Saturday disputed the idea that women voters can’t relate to conservative values and discussed how the party could strengthen its base by drawing support beyond its current camp.
“Bridging the Gap” kicked off Friday night with a welcoming reception at the S.C. Aquarium and continued on Saturday with a series of meetings at the Memminger Auditorium. The event was thrown by Palladian View and was the digital magazine’s third annual Women’s Summit.
The gathering aimed to tackle some of the party’s challenges, including a lack of women in leadership roles and the struggle to appeal to young women and minority groups.
Some of the party’s most influential women were in attendance, such as provocative columnists Ann Coulter and Star Parker.
A number of panelists, including Mitt Romney’s deputy campaign manager Katie Packer Gage and political consultant Sarah Huckabee Sanders, rounded out the discussion along with comments from the audience.
Sen. Katrina Shealy of Lexington said the summit’s message is crucial in the state of South Carolina. In November 2012, Shealy became the states’s only female senator when she ousted long-standing incumbent Jake Knotts.
“We need to get more young women involved in politics. We need to encourage them to get involved — That’s something we don’t do here in South Carolina. Programs like this will get women involved.
“Women have a different point of view on a lot things. Women are the ones who make a lot of the decisions on our children’s education. We may balance our family’s budget. We do all those things, but then we don’t have that voice in the legislature. ... We have one voice over there in South Carolina now, but we need more. I need some backup over there.”
In the first keynote speech of the day, Coulter spent little time addressing the summit’s mission, choosing instead to comment on immigration, gun control, the economy and other conservative talking points while taking frequent shots at the current administration.
“It’s true, voters like Obama personally,” Coulter said. “Most voters think Obama is great in everything except his policies. He’d probably make a great next door neighbor — Unless you’re Chinese, in which case he’d always be over borrowing something.”
Conservatives and liberals, Coulter said, all have something in common. “We all hate Obamacare.”
Coulter said that the GOP has a good shot at gaining traction in 2014 and that the group is on track to win the next presidential election.
But, Coulter said, “But we’re going to have to make sure that once we elect these Republicans they don’t turn around and ... start doing the bidding of business interests,” she said.
In a second keynote speech, Parker, a black woman, said she is changing the face of the Republican party.
She said her faith in God led her to embrace conservative ideals, despite having previously believed the “lies from the left.”
She said Republicans must alter the way they convey their message in order to draw more support from minority groups.
“We have to get to the point where we’re messaging on their level. It doesn’t mean change the message, but to identify who we’re talking to. It’s target marketing,” Parker said.
Parker said it’s no wonder minority groups currently lean to the left, and attracting their vote will require work.
“Black households vote like most households — their economic interests,” Parker said. “When you have large numbers of your community dependent on government, you’re going to vote for more government. ... Government dependence is choking our entire society.”
Other women who attended the summit included talk show host Dana Loesch and Republican National Committee Co-chairwoman Sharon Day.
Karen Floyd, a conservative activist from Spartanburg, organized the event. Floyd is renowned as the first woman to chair South Carolina’s Republican party.
Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.