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Challenge for new GOP chairman: attracting more women to party

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The President, brave front to the contrary, is not without his anxieties. The recovery isn't moving fast enough. The Israelis continue to obstruct his Mideast peace initiative. The Democrats are emboldened by recent election victories. . . .

Not the least of the President's concerns is that too many women in America just don't seem to like him - a solid majority according to several respected polls. Mr. Reagan and his cohorts are puzzled - but they know they have a problem.

''I believe the gender gap is real,'' says the new GOP national chairman, Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr. He calls it a ''perception problem,'' and one that is ''particularly serious'' for the Republican Party among women, age 21 to 40, who are either single or single heads of households.

''The perception,'' concedes the chairman, in office only a few days, ''is that this administration doesn't care about (these women), and that this President is going to make life more difficult for them through his economic programs.''

The President has been trying particularly hard of late to tell women that he has their interests at heart. First, he elevated Elizabeth Hanford Dole to the Cabinet. Then he chose Margaret M. Heckler for a Cabinet post. This was a reminder to many that it was Reagan who had placed the first woman, Sandra Day O'Connor, on the US Supreme Court.

But what might Mr. Fahrenkopf say of such moves? Well, he was telling a group of reporters that high-level appointments of blacks to the Reagan administration could not be the answer to what he conceded was the Republicans' inability to attract blacks to the Reagan cause. ''Those are only symbols,'' he said.

What was needed, he said, was for blacks to see that they must broaden their power base to include both parties. He said that they should see it is in their best interests to participate in the Republican Party - so that they can be a part of Republican leadership when that party is in power, and so that the Democrats aren't in a position always to take them for granted.

Fahrenkopf said that he is going to make an all-out effort to bring all minorities into participation in party activities, from the grass roots up.


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