GOP Picks Top Ranking Woman To Deliver SOTU Response

By: Nick Viviani
By: Nick Viviani
McMorris Rodgers is serving in her fifth term representing the district that runs along the eastern side of Washington State and delivered her third child in November.

Full Credit: From John Bodnar/Cathy McMorris Rodgers Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers in her office on Capitol Hill.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Emphasizing her family's story, Republican congressional leaders tapped Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the fourth highest House GOP leader and highest ranking woman, to deliver the response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address next Tuesday.

McMorris Rodgers is serving in her fifth term representing the district that runs along the eastern side of Washington State and delivered her third child in November, becoming the only member of Congress to give birth three times while in office.

"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," House Speaker John Boehner said in a written statement.

The selection of the highest ranking female Republican in the House comes as the party is working to narrow a significant gender gap. President Obama defeated 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney by double digits among female voters.

Boehner and other top Republican leaders have acknowledged that the party needs to do a better job addressing the concerns of women. Some high profile gaffes from GOP Senate candidates in 2012 caused blowback among female voters. Missouri GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin referred to "legitimate rape" and Richard Mourdock in Indiana suggested rape was "something God intended to happen." Both red-state candidates were favored to win but lost badly.

Last month Boehner admitted, "Some of our members just aren't as sensitive as they ought to be."

The House GOP campaign arm is working with male candidates to improve their messaging to women this election cycle.

Republican leaders released a video showing McMorris Rodgers getting her kids ready in the morning, discussing working in her father's family owned agriculture business and touting that she was the first child in her family to graduate from college.

But the real focus in McMorris Rodgers' story is her family. Her son Cole was born in 2007, and has Down syndrome. Her daughter Grace arrived in December 2010, while the Washington State Congresswoman served as vice chair of the House GOP Conference, marking the first time a member of House leadership delivered a baby. Her second daughter, Brynn Catherine, arrived in late November. She is married to Brian Rodgers, who is a retired Navy officer.

Addressing the camera in the short biographical video clip, McMorris Rodgers says her son's diagnosis with Down's syndrome has made her "a better legislator and a better person" and said her focus in Congress is to make sure the next generation has as many or more opportunities than she does.

As the chair of the House Republican conference, McMorris Rodgers is tasked with communicating the public message for House GOP members. Since taking over the position last January she has made a major push for her colleagues to make Twitter and Facebook a big part of their communications strategies.


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