A record number of women are running for office in this year's election, but the Republican gender gap is probably about to get even worse.
Record numbers of women are running for Congress in 2018 — but Republicans will still probably have fewer women representing their party in the U.S. House after the midterm elections.
"2018 is the year of the woman — except on the Republican side, where the ranks of GOP women are likely to shrink," David Wasserman, House editor of the Cook Political Report, told The Hill. "It’s a fairly dire situation for Republican women in the House."
Out of 236 Republican House members, just 23 are women. And according to The Hill's analysis, the best-case scenario for the GOP will be keeping that already-low number constant.
"If every female incumbent and challenger in a competitive race comes out on top this fall, the GOP could have 20 to 25 women in their conference next year," The Hill notes.
But if a "blue wave" sweeps large numbers of Democrats into office, which looks likely right now, the number of Republican women in the House could easily drop to between 10 and 15.
These midterm casualties could include the only woman in House Republican leadership, Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), who is struggling to hold on to her seat after performing poorly in the primaries.
Only 84 women currently serve in the U.S. House, a measly 19.3 percent of 435 House members — but most of them, 61, are still Democrats.
There are some obvious structural reasons for this. For one thing, Republicans care less about diversity and representation, which they tend to dismiss as mere "identity politics." For another, the Republican Party platform is a regressive carnival of horrors when it comes to women's health and rights.
But this year, there's also Trump.
Many Republican women, especially more moderate candidates, say they have been explicitly advised not to run this year and to wait for another election cycle.
The Republican Party has increasingly become the party of Trump, and Trump is an open misogynist who has admitted to sexual assault. Trump's racism and general extremism aren't playing well among women voters either, especially in the suburbs.
GOP women either have to excuse all of that, or try to pretend it doesn't exist — neither of which are great options, especially for moderates.
According to the Center for American Women and Politics, a record 476 women ran for House seats this year, but just 120 were Republicans.
That's still a record for the GOP, but it's sobering to think of how many women steered clear of running because of Trump and the overall Republican war on women.
And Republican women have yet another problem: Republicans just aren't voting for them as often as Democrats are voting for their party's female candidates.
Update: so far in 2018 Dem House primaries featuring one man, one woman & no incumbent on ballot, a woman has won 83/121 times (69%). On GOP side, just 12/35 times (34%).
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) August 8, 2018
In general, research says that women in both parties win elections just as often as men do, once they actually decide to run.
Usually, the problem is that fewer women are deciding to run in the first place — either because they doubt their own competence, or because they lack the same robust political networks of people encouraging them to run that many men have.
But things might be different this year.
Many women Democratic candidates decided to run for office for the first time because they were so disgusted by Trump’s misogyny and inhumanity, and so determined to find a way to fight back.
Many first-time candidates, especially women and people of color, are pushing the Democratic Party to embrace truly bold fixes to many of the deep economic and social problems America has struggled with for decades.
These bold stances from fresh new candidates are helping to drive massive enthusiasm among Democratic voters.
Republican women candidates, on the other hand, are being dragged down by an unpopular, misogynistic president — not to mention a party with terrible policies for women and no new ideas to help working families.
No wonder 2018 is only shaping up to be the Year of the Woman for Democrats.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.