Women and the 2022 midterms: A POLITICO roundtable

July 30, 2021

Politico: Women and the 2022 midterms: A POLITICO roundtable

By: Katelyn Fossett

The pandemic turned many American women’s lives upside down. At the height of the Covid outbreak, women were more likely to be the service workers who lost their jobs and the essential workers who had to continue to show up. Millions of women dropped out of the workforce, and more than a year later nearly 2 million still haven’t returned. Many caregivers, who are disproportionately women, still don’t have reliable childcare.

As a result, it’s women who arguably stand to gain and lose the most in the upcoming 2022 midterm elections. And three women who lead some of the largest progressive political organizations are trying to make sure they aren’t missing an opportunity with those voters. For a Women Rule roundtable, I recently convened Stefanie Brown James, co-founder and senior adviser at the Collective PAC, which supports Black candidates running for federal, state and local office; Maria Teresa Kumar, founder and president of Voto Latino, a group that registers Latino voters; and Jessica Floyd, president of American Bridge 21st Century, a liberal super PAC. Each of these groups is gearing up to try to keep Congress in Democratic control two years after an election showed just how much they have to fight for every seat and every demographic group they’ve come to rely on.

We talked about how women in crucial swing states seem to like President Joe Biden, but also don’t have as much time or energy to keep up with politics post-Donald Trump; the two kinds of suburban women voters we learned about in 2020; whether Democrats have improved their messaging to voters of color; and how they should support Black women running for office. All of the participants agreed that if women voters have become less politically engaged with Trump out of office, they should start paying attention again now. “What I remind people is … we have a reprieve,” said Kumar, “but we are in the eye of the storm.”

Read the full article here. Excerpts from the conversation are below.

On women being less engaged post-Trump:

Jessica Floyd, American Bridge 21st Century: Fifty-seven percent [of women] are viewing [Biden] favorably across those four states [Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona] among women voters. But we also see that about 49 percent of women that we surveyed are paying less attention to politics than they were during the Trump years. I think we all probably feel emotionally like we would like to take a step back from the chaos that was the Trump administration. But when you look at the policy, and what that means for us as communicators to those women, we need to be talking that much more, that much earlier, that much more consistently to those women to show what the Biden administration and congressional Democrats are doing for them.

On the messaging strategy needed to engage women:

Maria Teresa Kumar, Voto Latino: We’re speaking specifically to women in Arizona and Georgia around the child tax credit, because there’s just not an understanding of what that is and how that benefits them. So, we saw a lot of, “We’re not even applying for it,” [voters] thinking that they couldn’t because they may not have an existing filing with the IRS or what have you. … So, we’re taking on pieces of the work that we haven’t had to in the past, but it’s because we are seeing people tune out.

Floyd: One study showed that 44 percent of women actually started subscribing to lifestyle magazines during the pandemic, and about 70 percent of those subscribers read lifestyle magazines on their e-readers or on their phones. So, that’s a place to meet these women who are getting their information. There’s a reason why Cecile Richards, when she joined as co-chair at American Bridge, one of her first op-eds for us was in Elle magazine, because this goes back to what you’re hearing today: Let’s talk consistently, strategically and meet voters where they are.

On whether Democrats are improving their support of Black female candidates:

Stefanie Brown James, Collective PAC: I can remember back when we started the Collective in 2016, we had to have a very heart-to-heart conversation with the leaders of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee because they had their robust, robust red-to blue list. These were their priority candidates. No Black candidates on the list of 20-plus people. Now, this was in 2018. The candidates that we were shepherding and that we were really pushing forward, like Lucy McBath and Joe Neguse, who now is in Democratic leadership, for example, were not getting the support from the DCCC. … So, I think we are seeing some progress being made there, because eventually there were Black folks that were added to that list, and now they’re in Congress.

But we’re also seeing organizations like Emily’s List really increase their investments in Black women running for office. And listen, there are some gatekeeper organizations. I think Emily’s List knows that they’re one of them. If Emily’s List is backing you, OK, there are donors that are going to come in; if Collective PAC is backing you, there are donors that are going to come in. So, I appreciate that organizations are also stepping up to say, “We have to play a bigger role helping these candidates as well.”

On why suburban women are still important in 2022:

Floyd: When we think about suburban women, there are really two groups that we’re looking at. [First] is persuasion audiences — persuading people who might go back to the Republican Party. I think about the Northern Virginia suburbs that liked former Representative Barbara Comstock but didn’t like Donald Trump. We need to make sure that they understand that the Republican Party is still the party of Trump, and whether or not any of these Republicans seem as chaotic as Donald Trump or seem quite as out of step with them on policies, they actually are further and further out of step with suburban voters and particularly with women.

The second group is women who, if they vote, they’re likely to vote Democratic, but not guaranteed to. And we need to persuade them to remain engaged in a post-Trump world. … We know that both groups care deeply about getting out of the Covid crisis, both the health care crisis and in particular the economy is [issue] number one, two, three and four for women.