Trying to figure out who conservative women back for president

Advocacy groups for conservative women plan to a conduct straw poll of women, asking them to rank potential presidential candidates, including Rep. Michele Bachmann.
REUTERS/Larry Downing
Advocacy groups for conservative women plan to a conduct straw poll of women, asking them to rank potential presidential candidates, including Rep. Michele Bachmann.

What do women want? Specifically, what do conservative women want in a presidential candidate?

Minnesota’s Voices of Conservative Women will ask that question in a first-of-its-kind straw poll of presidential candidates aimed only at women. Voices, an advocacy group that works to elect conservative women at the state and local level, will partner with its older sister, Smart Girl Politics, based in Virginia, to conduct the straw poll at the third annual Smart Girl Summit in July 29 and 30 in St. Louis.

“We’re kind of excited because this is something that has never been done before,” according to Jennifer DeJournett, the Maple Grove woman who is the director of Voices. “Since 1980, women have outvoted men, off years and on years. But no one has asked women what they really want — it’s ridiculous.”
The presidential straw poll came out of what DeJournett calls “a little coffee powwow” at CPAC, the American Conservative Union’s annual conference, with the founders of Smart Girl Politics, an online network for conservative women across the country.

The two groups have similar political identities. Both stress fiscal issues, and they make little or no mention of social issues like abortion and gay rights.

“Number one topic — the deficit, always the deficit. We have to balance our budgets, why don’t they?” asks Teri Christoph, co-founder of Smart Girl. While Smart Girl also advocates on energy, nutrition and education issues, “it always come back to the money — the debt we are saddling our children with,” says Christoph.

Teri Christoph
Teri Christoph

Both groups are non-partisan, although Voices so far has endorsed only Republican women in Minnesota and Christoph of Smart Girl says Republicans Sara Palin and Michele Bachmann resonate with members of her organization. In fact, it was Palin’s run for vice president in 2008 that prompted Christoph, a self-described mommy-blogger, to focus on conservative politics. “We think, she [Palin] is a lot like us,” says Christoph.

Political influence
“Us” would be young working and stay-at-home moms who make up much of the membership of Smart Girl and Voices. They have considerable political influence that the groups promote. “We will reach out to conservative women and encourage them to get involved,” according to the Smart Girl website. “We were formed to train and support the next generation of women leaders at ALL levels of government who support fiscal responsibility, limited government and free market principles!” states the Voices website.

“We really wanted to work [a straw poll] in 2010 and we know people are looking to 2012,” said Christoph. The women decided that with Smart Girl’s national reach and reputation and Voices on-the-ground election expertise, the Smart Girl 2011 summit would be the ideal location for a straw poll.

Jennifer DeJournett
Courtesy of Jennifer DeJournett
Jennifer DeJournett

Around 300 women are expected at the July summit which is fortuitously timed to take place just two weeks before the Iowa presidential straw poll in August.

“We have every intention of inviting the conservatives who made noise that they are going to run for president,” Christoph says. With the audience and the timing, she expects most of the major candidates to make an appearance in St. Louis.

DeJournett says the straw poll will ask attendees for their first and second choices for a presidential candidate in 2012, as well asking them to rank important issues. Because Minnesota could have two candidates on the ballot, she says, “We will have an accounting firm count the ballots. We don’t want to touch the box.”

The groups believe that the results will be a key early indicator of who conservative women might support.

Christoph offer this tip for the contenders: “We are looking for someone to bring fresh ideas. Our ladies are new to politics. They want someone to talk plain, make it simple, and get it done.”

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Comments (30)

  1. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/04/2011 - 10:51 am.

    Perhaps it is just me and my insecurities, but I would feel slightly foolish belonging to a groups called “Smart Boys”.

  2. Submitted by Cecil North on 04/04/2011 - 11:35 am.

    Given the relentless anti-woman politics of the party, it’s a wonder to me that a woman can support any Republican candidate for President (or any other office, for that matter). But if Ms. Christoph’s right, that Ms. Palin is “a lot like” her and her comrades, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised if they making their choices based on the same toxic mix of ignorance, self pity, narcissism and greed.

  3. Submitted by Jim Roth on 04/04/2011 - 11:53 am.

    Perhaps “Mean Girls” would be a more apt name.

  4. Submitted by Lynda Friedman on 04/04/2011 - 12:09 pm.

    “Our ladies are new to politics. They want someone to . . . make it simple”. Sounds like Bachmann and Palin to me. Unfortunately, it seems there are always women like this looking for a Prince Charming to make the complications of life simple. If only life and fiscal policy making were actually simple, these “ladies” might get the world they want for their children without damaging the lives of millions of women around the world with their short-sighted, ill-informed platitude-based politics. Too bad, Smart Girls with Voices, you are on the wrong side of reality. Take off your crowns and start working to understand the difficult choices facing voters before you run a straw poll.

  5. Submitted by Jerilyn Jackson on 04/04/2011 - 12:33 pm.

    These women feel that Palin is a lot like them? What a telling admission. If these people think that talking plain and making it simple are two of the most important qualifications for a job dealing with issues that are anything but simple, they are completely out of touch with reality. I am embarrassed for them.

  6. Submitted by Jennifer DeJournett on 04/04/2011 - 12:56 pm.

    Regardless of where you stand politically, all women should applaud women making their voices heard on the issues that resonate with them.

    Given the overwhelming numbers that women have shown at the polls for the last 31 years, we were surprised that no other women’s groups ever hosted a Presidential Straw Poll.

    While it is true that women have been voting for liberal policies in the past. The election cycle of 2010 showed that when women vote with their pocket books, they can swing election cycles. Women care about the issues that are drivers in their lives. Our long term economic health depends on having a house that is in sound fiscal order. Spending more than what you have in an unsustainable economic model is the ultimate anti-women policy, especially because our long-term fiscal health and well being depends on sound fiscal policy.

    Another laudable goal of our liberal sisters has been the goal of parity in elected office. Without conservative women seeking office with the same vigor as liberal women, the goal of parity will not be achieved. Because in fact, not all women are liberal. Therefore, parity cannot be achieved without your conservative sisters too. Women have a diverse set of political view points and we applaud ALL women in making their voice heard.

    Rather than taunt, we would hope that you would see merit in making sure that women’s voices are heard early in the presidential process.

    All women are invited to participate in the First Ever Presidential Straw Poll.

    To learn more about the SGP/VOICES Straw Poll visit http://www.presidentialstrawpoll.com

  7. Submitted by Brian Simon on 04/04/2011 - 01:02 pm.

    “Since 1980, women have outvoted men, off years and on years. But no one has asked women what they really want — it’s ridiculous.”

    The good pollsters model their sample after the electorate demographically – by race, income, education and… gender. In every election cycle, pollsters publish these numbers, including the crosstabs. Invariably, it seems, pollsters and the media develop cute names for these groups. Like, where does she think the term ‘soccer moms’ came from?

    As for the last request:

    Christoph offer this tip for the contenders: “We are looking for someone to bring fresh ideas. Our ladies are new to politics. They want someone to talk plain, make it simple, and get it done.”

    Isn’t that what we got from the Bush administration?

  8. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 04/04/2011 - 01:13 pm.

    What liberals fear most? – A strong, pro-life, pro-gun, conservative woman.

    I only wish that Senator Amy K would receive 1% of the MinnPost type “journalistic” scrutiny that is given M. Bachmann.

  9. Submitted by Maureen Nalezny on 04/04/2011 - 01:20 pm.

    I think this is all silly-sounding. I am not impressed that they had what they called a “coffee powwow” — this is exactly the kind of silly, stereotypical language that has always reduced the image of women to a group of hens — clucking, nibbling and sipping.

    I agree with the previous MinnPosters about the name of the group. “Girls” — another slam, in my opinion. It’s not that I object to the humor behind the name, the collegiality of it, but that kind of idiom has its place — among friends, for example. It doesn’t sound even remotely professional or serious.

    But MOST concerning is this statement: “‘We think, she [Palin] is a lot like us,’ says Christoph.” As a woman, as an American, as a mother, as someone with a need to make sense of things, as an advocate for the vulnerable, as a hard-working, self-employed person, as a beleaguered faithful and spiritual person, I cannot understand–though I’ve tried–why Sarah Palin resonates with women who work hard to be loving, committed mothers; or women who are employed to make ends meet; or women who are juggling career goals and family goals. I don’t see Sarah Palin doing that at all. How is she “like” you? I’ll bet you’re wrong. I know she is nothing like me. I would shun publicity for publicity’s sake. I wouldn’t quit in the middle of a term I’d promised to complete. I don’t watch “Dancing With The Stars.” I do not care about hunting. I have deep empathy for parents of kids with disabilities. (How IS that cute baby?)

    My daughters and nieces have great self-esteem, thank God. They didn’t fall victim to their passions in high school because THEY KNEW BETTER. It’s not that they had abortions to hide indiscretions. They had an elegant, empowered sense of who they were, including who they didn’t have to be to please a boyfriend, parents, etc. And they respect life without having to demonstrate it by becoming pregnant and keeping the baby. (Where IS that baby?) I am so very lucky to have such intelligent and thoughtful daughters, but they were lucky to have me, too. I do not understand the chaos in Sarah Palin’s family. She is not like me, nor like any of the people I admire.

    Further, why do the “Smart Girls” think a president SHOULD sound like them? I don’t want my president to have all of my experience, or even my frame of reference. Far better for him or her to have government experience, diplomatic experience, and a deep knowledge of history and the current global issues.

    Maybe a governor or local legislator could be more like me. That would be great. But not the President of the United States. Sure, the president has to know I’m here, know I matter, but also has to look for the greatest good to serve all. That’s not socialism. It’s not a license to tax without careful consideration. It’s not liberalism. It’s common sense.

    Ms. Palin wants Americans to think of themselves as “exceptional,” but there is nothing exceptional about her leadership qualities, her experience, her knowledge, her stand on issues, her family, her CV. Nope. Why does she believe, to her core it seems, that SHE is deserving of the hard-won adjective “exceptional?” She is rare, certainly, but not in a complimentary way. She is a narcissist. I am not.

    I think Whoopi Goldberg and the character, Lorelei Gilmore, sound like me. Or Scout Finch and Atticus. I think I’ll support them for the presidency. Makes about as much sense.

    Thanks for reading, if you got this far. It’s just so worrisome, how some people are thinking. Black vs. white, good vs. bad, exceptional vs. everyone else — these are false distinctions and impotent conflicts. Ironically, I know this through my faith.

  10. Submitted by Cathie Perrault on 04/04/2011 - 01:26 pm.

    . “We think, she [Palin] is a lot like us,” says Christoph.

    That statement alone should frighten anyone who thinks this voter segment has any clue about what it would take to be an effective President in this day and age. Look at yourselves ladies, are any of YOU qualified to be President?

  11. Submitted by andy on 04/04/2011 - 01:27 pm.

    Who will “Conservative” women back for President? Whoever they are told to to back, just like with “Conservative” men- Rush tells them, they tell their wives…

  12. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 04/04/2011 - 02:00 pm.

    Ms. DeJournett, the “taunting” isn’t because your group is conservative. It is because the candidates you claim to identify with – Palin and Bachmann – are deserving of ridicule. Anyone who is a true conservative would never support a compulsive liar like Bachmann. The fact that you do suggests that your group is less a conservative group than a group that doesn’t believe the truth is important. Between your interest in supporting liars and your unbelievably stupid name, how can you expect anything other than taunting?

    Mr. Gotzman, what do you think is not being missed with regard to Amy K? Bachmann gets a lot of news because she regularly tells outrageous and easily disprovable lies.

  13. Submitted by Lynda Friedman on 04/04/2011 - 02:21 pm.

    @ #6, Jennifer. “all women should applaud women making their voices heard on issues that resonate with them’??? Sorry, I don’t applaud ignorance in women or men. The “CPAC” women are making life difficult for millions of people because they are searching (like the CPAC) men for simple, easy to explain solutions to difficult problems. I don’t have any feeling of “sisterhood” for those who are legislating against my interests by blindly following the latest talking points on Fox. I long ago stopped judging people solely on their gender and applauding conservative women just because they are female.

  14. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 04/04/2011 - 02:26 pm.

    I have to echo Cecil North (#2). Republican movers and shakers, specifically including Mrs. Bachmann and Mrs. Palin, have advocated and voted for policies that are overtly hostile to women for many years. I’m surprised that women who claim to be “conservative” see anyone on the Republican horizon worth voting for.

    It’s a sad commentary, indeed, on the social and intellectual weight of “conservative” women if, as Ms. Christoph suggests, they have a lot in common with Sara Palin. Ignorance, self-pity, narcissism and greed are not qualities that leap to the head of the list of things most sentient humans would want to see in a political leader, but which Mrs. Palin displays abundance.

  15. Submitted by Virginia Martin on 04/04/2011 - 02:48 pm.

    Why would any of us applaud the proposed legislation that would make abortion much harder, cut funds to poor women and children,
    forbid scientific research (that might save many women and children’s lives) using stem cells and cloning; (it’s not that scientists want to clone, it’s that restriction scientific inquiry in any way hampers research.
    Opposing equal pay for equal work laws (we women only work for pin money; our husbands are the main providers–isn’t that right, “ladies.”
    I have to stop; This all outrages me.

  16. Submitted by Maureen Nalezny on 04/04/2011 - 03:00 pm.

    Jennifer, don’t diminish yourself or your group(s)’ strength by implying that the most basic, unconsidered participation — any female voice — is better than none. Intelligent and informed participation and lofty goals are an important part of policy and culture. Come, now. Think on your feet. Women are a gift to the political world, but only if they run, screaming, from the ignorant or shrill.

    We can hold ourselves to higher standards than just showing up. Women have gained much in the past century. Not enough, I’ll grant you, but don’t mess up our progress with trite expressions of Politics Lite.

    Perhaps you really don’t know how damaging popular opinion can be. It’s anathema to a culture based on consideration, equality and support. Social networks, Twitter and other electronic conveniences are making it hard to fight the tsunami. Don’t contribute to the ignorance. And please, please don’t let it all feed your ego. You are better than that!

    ps. I don’t have a pocket book. And I think power for powers’ sake is a deadly sin.

  17. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 04/04/2011 - 03:26 pm.

    “Smart Women” don’t vote for candidates who think government can be run like a family.

    Letting a deficit grow TEMPORARILY while the economy needs stimulus leads to economic recovery, jobs, increased governmental revenue from income taxes, and – voila – the disappearance of the deficit.

    Cutting expenses does nothing but create hardship for everyone but the best off. It does not grow the economy.

    Every Republican president for decades has grown the deficit but not the economy. Every Democratic president has restored the economy to health and erased the deficit. (Although the size of the Bush deficit plus the banksters meltdown, such a recovery might take longer than usual. Especially with a Congress overloaded with a cut-cut-cut mentality.)

  18. Submitted by Rosalind Kohls on 04/04/2011 - 03:40 pm.

    If the election were held today, I would vote for a Paul Ryan/Marco Rubio ticket.

  19. Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 04/04/2011 - 04:45 pm.

    Ms Brucato- how can you declare that these groups are non-partisan? If they describe themselves so, than you can say that they claim to be non-partisan; but any journalist should be able to see that they are hugely partisan- only endorsing republicans, holding out Palin/Bachmann as women who “resonate” with them; how much more partisan could one get???

  20. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 04/04/2011 - 06:17 pm.

    It’s not surprising to me, in fact it’s a relief, that liberal women know that Sarah Palin is nothing like them.

    I’m sure she appreciates the unintended endorsement.

    It’s been my observation that Palin’s biggest enemies are liberal women who fear and resent her because of who she is. A strong woman of accomplishment who rejects the “protected class” label that they too readily embrace.

  21. Submitted by Lora Jones on 04/04/2011 - 07:10 pm.

    Earth to “Smart” Girls. RAISE TAXES on the top 1%. Or . . . don’t you DO math?

  22. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 04/04/2011 - 07:27 pm.

    “A strong woman of accomplishment who rejects the “protected class” label that they too readily embrace.”

    If I didn’t know Dennis was a conservative, I would think he was just trying to be funny. You really can’t make that stuff up.

    The idea that liberal women or liberals in general fear Sarah Palin is just plain hilarious. Palin is a clown. A corrupt, dishonest clown. Obama and his supporters would like nothing better than for the Republicans to nominate an idiot like her. It would be their dream come true. Sadly, there are a lot of conservatives and otherwise Republican voters who are smarter than the “smart”girls here, and realize what a joke Palin is.

    Feel free to prove me wrong, though. Go ahead and nominate Palin. Or Bachmann. Knock yourself out.

  23. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 04/04/2011 - 09:25 pm.

    Dan #12,

    Please, get real!

    Compare the headlines MinnPost has published concerning M. Bachmann and Senator Amy K. in the last six months. Then you tell me if there is just a hint of “political journalist prejudice.” M. Bachmann is a target for the left wing “journalists.” I am surprised that you cannot recognize this fact.

    If you want to talk about “outrageous” statements and” lies,” please compare the campaign promises of Amy K. with her record. Any “journalist” could do that, but I am still trying to find one

  24. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 04/04/2011 - 09:56 pm.

    “Keep it simple”…a straw vote for ‘straw women’ I assume? Wow.

  25. Submitted by Dale Hoogeveen on 04/05/2011 - 03:01 am.

    Looks like a straw poll that is trying to get directed results to me, and the article above looks to be written to advance that goal. Not very even handed reporting. Where are the other conservative women besides this one shrill cadre? They are out there all right, but not represented here.

  26. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 04/05/2011 - 09:21 am.

    Ron (#23) the fact that there is a lot more press coverage for Bachmann (and not just here) during the last six months is due to the fact that Amy K hasn’t said anything stupid (or much of anything at all) in the last six months. What’s to cover? What’s been missed?

    Bachmann, on the other hand, has made a number of idiotic statements, including a number of outright lies. Just the other day Bachmann was repeating the lie that the protesters in Madison caused $7.5 million in damage to the capitol even after the Walker administration – the source of the figure – had admitted it wasn’t true. That isn’t a broken campaign promise – that’s just an outright lie.

    And it isn’t just the “left wing” press that goes after Bachmann. Politifact, which evaluates statements by politicians from both parties, consistently rates Bachmann’s statements as lies. There is no politician in the United States that can match her level of dishonesty. Its not Bachmann’s conservatism that gets her attention – its her stupidity and dishonesty. Then again, intelligent conservatives don’t support her – just stupid conservatives and people who have no interest in the truth.

  27. Submitted by Tammy Houle on 04/05/2011 - 09:25 am.

    The only candidates worthy of any intellectual woman’s vote in 2012 are Ron and Rand Paul. Use your brains women. Do the research. Don’t just buy into the party line from the party elites, whichever side of the aisle you are on…..!

  28. Submitted by Anne Keroff on 04/05/2011 - 03:54 pm.

    Quite frankly, I am amazed at the vitriol being hurled at these two groups. You’d think that being for fiscal responsibility in governance was equivalent to being anti-woman. Conservative and libertarian women, especially those outside conservative religious circles, have been vastly underrepresented in political movements in the United States until this new wave of conservative activism.

  29. Submitted by Victoria Hildebrand on 04/11/2011 - 09:51 pm.

    I don’t care if someone is gay or someone supports abortion rights,,,I don’t care what color you are or what religion you are. My prejudice lies with government waste!!! Liberals and Conservatives alike should be FURIOUS over how much money is wasted in our Government!! The budget should be analyzed and torn apart, spending should be held in check, and the spending found to be wasted could supply monies to the areas that are in short supply! OMG, who would be against cutting the waste to spend in areas that better need it???? WHO???

  30. Submitted by Margaret Chayka on 04/17/2011 - 08:16 am.

    At this point I can tell you who I DON’T want because all the media seem to do is break out the same old, same old for the polls. NO WAY on the Mitt-n-Huck show, or that has-been with skeletons galore Newt, or ANYone who has been in D.C., period. Outsiders only may apply. Bachmann is a great attack dog for our conservative causes, but she is not great with details and will easily be tripped up. I love Palin, and she’s the only reason why I and others held our noses at the polls to cast a vote for the tired, unwanted McCain, but if a governor surfaces – lordy, NOT the wishy-washy McCain-supporting Tim Pawlenty. Trump? Oh, pleez, can we get serious? Also, if any of the POTUS ’12 candidates say “reach across the aisle” even once, they are OUT. OUT!

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