- Big name:
- Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington is highest-ranking woman in House GOP leadership
- 14 year gap:
- She is first GOP woman to deliver State of the Union response to a Democratic president since 2000
- Targeting women:
- Obama won 55% of the women's vote in 2012 presidential election
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, the highest-ranking woman in the House GOP leadership,will deliver the official Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union Address on Tuesday.
McMorris Rodgers, first elected in 2004, is chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, the No. 4 GOP leadership post. Her assignment was announced Thursday by House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The Washington lawmaker is the first woman to give the Republican rebuttal since Obama has been president. The last time a female GOP lawmaker delivered the response to a Democratic president's State of the Union Address was in 2000, when Sen. Susan Collins of Maine gave the response with then-Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee after President Bill Clinton's remarks.
Republicans have been trying to improve their standing with women voters. Obama won 55% of the women's vote to 44% for Mitt Romney in the 2012 election. Democrats also seized on comments about rape and abortion by GOP Senate candidates Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana to portray the GOP as out of touch. Both Republicans lost their Senate races.
Boehner cited McMorris Rodgers' background -- as the first person in her family to graduate from college, working at her family's orchard and fruit stand and rising through the Washington Legislature to Congress -- as "proof that with humility, hard work and dedication, you can overcome any obstacle."
"Through the lens of her family's experiences, Cathy will share our vision for a better America built on a thriving middle class, guided by a fierce belief in life and liberty, and grounded in greater trust between citizens and their government," Boehner said.
McConnell said McMorris Rodgers will offer "an alternative approach to the president's plans to grow an already enormous federal bureaucracy."
McMorris Rodgers, 44 years old and the mother of three, has a distinctive place in congressional history. All three of her children have been born while she has served in the U.S. House, with daughter Brynn Catherine Rodgers born in November.
Delivering the State of the Union response is often seen as a plum for a rising political star of either party, but the job can also pose pitfalls. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a potential 2016 presidential candidate, was mocked last year when he reached for a water bottle to quench his thirst during his televised address.
Follow @ccamia on Twitter.