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In the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray finds himself stuck in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, living the same day over and over again, with little hope of breaking the pattern. Conservative voters feel much the same way about the current Republican presidential primary season.
Every day, it seems, we awaken to find ourselves faced with yet another poorly moderated debate (but that’s for another post!) and an endless volley of accusations from the campaign trail about tax returns, ex-wives, moon colonies and Freddie Mac. We are offered precious few opportunities to delve into the issues uppermost in our minds, such as the deficit, Obamacare and jobs.
Although oftentimes tiresome, the primary season does provide an important opportunity for the electorate to take out candidates for a “test-drive” in order to find out which one best fits their needs. And conservative women in large part feel like there are only lemons left on the lot. While many have backed a particular candidate for a while, which is most true of Mitt Romney and Ron Paul supporters, most of us are looking anew for someone to back.
Why are we looking anew? Because, sadly, our favorites are no longer in the race. Conservative women have been on the front lines of the grassroots resurgence of the last three years, fighting against government power grabs and demanding that our elected officials apply the same common sense solutions to the budgetary crisis that we practice in our homes (if you don’t have the money, for goodness sake, you can’t spend it!).
The two candidates who consistently fought alongside us, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain, are no longer presidential candidates. They may have been long shots, but their messages rang true with women on the right: Rein in government, control spending, and return responsibility to the individual. With their voices gone from the campaign trail, who will be the standard bearer for these values?
(As a side note, we were also hoping for great things from Rick Perry, but those great things rather bafflingly failed to materialize. And Rick Santorum has the conservative bona fides but his early debate performances tended to be whiny and did not inspire confidence.)
Heading into Tuesday’s primary in Florida, the answer is Newt Gingrich. Yes, Newt Gingrich. A considerable number of conservative women, whether rightly or wrongly, are looking to the former Speaker of the House to represent their grassroots interests. A year ago, Newt Gingrich had a colossal “woman problem” of his own making, so how did we get here?
There are several explanations: Our favorites are gone. Newt rose like a phoenix from the ashes of a near-dead campaign and that has to count for something. He thinks big. He debates like a champ. He believes in American exceptionalism, something sorely lacking in present day society. He smacks down the oh-so-deserving debate moderators. He’s not Romney.
Love him or hate him (and many of us swing between the two on a regular basis), Newt Gingrich has managed to keep the focus on the issues and downplay his past transgressions. Conservative women, for their part, are feeling keenly the pressure to find a candidate who will represent their interests. Whether these strange bedfellows will translate into electoral success remains to be seen, but the Florida results could be a good indication.
Teri Christoph is the co-founder of Smart Girl Politics, a non-profit organization for conservative women. A graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park, she lives in Leesburg, VA with her husband and four children. Follow her on Twitter: @TeriChristoph.