Republican leaders are boosting efforts to woo women voters, who are more likely to cast ballots then men and identify with their party on issues such as homeland security and finances.
Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Rep. Kay Granger of Texas have formed a group called Women Impacting the Nation (WIN), which will conduct a national survey to determine issues that resonate with female voters and to help Republicans in the 2008 elections.
"What we have to get across to women voters is that 'We're listening to you,' " said Mrs. Granger. She said the role of Republican women sometimes is overlooked, with notable exceptions such as President's Bush's "W stands for Women" outreach campaign.
Mrs. Dole, former head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), said women deserve an elevated role in the political process to match their buying power in the marketplace.
"I am confident that WIN will be a real force in the 2008 elections and beyond," said Mrs. Dole, who in 2005 started the NRSC's Women's Majority Network. "After all, women today are having a greater impact on America's economy than at any period in our nation's history."
In the 2004 presidential election, the voter turnout rate was 60 percent among women and 56 percent among men, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Also, 67.3 million women compared with 58.5 million men voted for president. Women have outpaced men in presidential voting since 1980, and the 2004 election represented the largest gap with men.
Polling data from the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) showed that female voters provided the critical margin of victory last year in races in Missouri, Montana and Virginia that enabled Democrats to regain control of the U.S. Senate.
Yet a Gallup Poll last month found that Democrats do not have a significant advantage over Republicans when it comes to female voters.
Gallup found Sen. Hillary Clinton, New York Democrat, leading former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani 53 percent to 47 percent among women in a hypothetical presidential matchup.
In the 2004 presidential election, women favored Sen. John Kerry over Mr. Bush by a 52 percent to 48 percent margin. In Gallup's final 2000 poll, women preferred Vice President Al Gore over Mr. Bush by eight points, 53 percent to 45 percent.
"The No. 1 issue for women seems to be the war in Iraq, like it is with most voters," said CAWP Director Debbie Walsh. She said Mr. Giuliani's appeal to women includes his moderate positions on social issues such as abortion.
Ms. Walsh said that showcasing female leaders is important, but Republicans also will have to adapt their message if they want to broaden support among women.
"It's not really about the gender of the messenger," she said. "Women voters are voting on the substance of the issues."