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Thursday, August 30, 2012 - Page updated at 06:00 a.m.
McMorris Rodgers, as convention host, sets theme of 'We Built It'
By Jim Brunner
Seattle Times political reporter
TAMPA — U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers got her delayed moment in the spotlight at the Republican National Convention Tuesday, delivering a brief speech hitting the GOP's theme of the night, "We Built It."
McMorris Rodgers acted as the convention "host" — a role created after her original speaking slot Monday was canceled due to the approach of now-Hurricane Isaac. Her task was to preview the speakers and their theme.
As the highest-ranking Republican woman in Congress, and an early backer of Mitt Romney, McMorris Rodgers has become a top GOP spokeswoman on women's issues and the economy.
Her presence on stage Tuesday was more evidence she is a rising Republican leader, if not yet in the top tier of GOP talent nationally.
In her three-minute, forty-second speech, McMorris Rodgers said the speakers of the night meant to "deliver a message to President Obama. And that message is three simple words: We Built It."
The message drew chants of the slogan from the crowd, including the Washington delegation seated close to the stage.
McMorris Rodgers cited her own time working at her family's fruit orchard in Kettle Falls, Stevens County, before she ran for Congress:
"I worked hard every day, and I can assure you that my family built that business from the ground up."
The "We Built It" slogan stems from a remark made by President Obama that Republicans have seized on as evidence he is anti-business.
In a July campaign stop, Obama said that nobody got successful entirely on their own, citing public education and infrastructure that benefit everyone.
"Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business — you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen," he said.
Obama went on to note that government research had helped fund creation of the Internet.
But it was the business portion of that statement that Republicans zeroed in on — making the "We Built It" retort a central theme of the 2012 campaign.
Fact-checking organizations, including Politifact, have labeled the Republican portrayal of Obama's comment as false or misleading.
Some critics have also pointed out that Republicans were holding their convention in an arena, the Tampa Bay Times Forum, built largely with public money.
But in an interview before her speech, McMorris Rodgers defended the GOP slogan, suggesting that Obama had offered a window into his true anti-business nature.
"Well you know, he said it. There are different times when it seems that President Obama, when he lets his guard down, he says things he later wants to clarify," she said.
McMorris Rodgers said she'd been speaking to a businessman that morning who told her he'd had to pay $300,000 for a hotel-building permit for sewer and other infrastructure.
The point was, she said, that businesses pay and generate taxes that finance public services.
"I think it's important to recognize that small businesses are the economic driver, they create the jobs and they pay the taxes so you can do other important infrastructure work that is needed in America," she said.
McMorris Rodgers also has become an important figure in Republican efforts to win the women's vote. Those efforts were dealt a blow with Missouri Rep. Todd Akin's recent abortion-related comments about "legitimate rape" not leading to pregnancies.
McMorris Rodgers has joined other Republicans in condemning Akin's comments but has not backed away from the GOP's strong anti-abortion stances, including voting to defund Planned Parenthood.
But McMorris Rodgers said Republicans can continue to make inroads with women by focusing on the number one issue of the election — the economy.
"The Democrats are doing better with single women. The Republicans win the married-women vote. From my perspective we are battling for the women's vote," she said.
McMorris Rodgers said the GOP won among women in the 2010 elections for the first time since Ronald Reagan, and noted that four of the six female governors in the U.S. are Republicans.
The recent Democratic Party focus on women has been a direct result of those GOP victories, she said. "Republicans are doing better with women today."
McMorris Rodgers, in her convention host role, is also expected to deliver short comments on Wednesday and Thursday — the final two days of the Republican convention.
Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or email@example.com. On Twitter @Jim_Brunner.
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