Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney named the top Republican woman in the House to serve as his liaison to the chamber's GOP conference Monday, handing the congresswoman from Washington state key responsibility for keeping the often fractious caucus on the same page as the campaign.
The new post gives Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), already a rising figure on the Hill, new national prominence and close access to the party's presidential nominee.
As one of the House's most visible working women - she is the first member of Congress ever to give birth twice while serving on Capitol Hill - her selection serves as a concrete GOP counterpunch to Democratic allegations that Republicans have been unfriendly to women's rights. "The governor likes her. And the conference likes her. . . . It's a good fit," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), a close Romney ally in the House. "You've got to remember - every one of the House Republicans has something in common with Mitt Romney: They'll be on the ballot together. There's a lot of people who have to get up to speed with his vision and his positions."
The announcement coincided with a Romney fundraiser Monday in Seattle, where the former Massachusetts governor was expected to raise $4 million.
McMorris Rodgers said she will organize weekly meetings with House members to fill them in on Romney's travels and messaging. She also hopes to coordinate more contact between Romney's policy advisers and House members with expertise in particular areas.
"The communication is going to be very positive, so he has a better sense of what we've been working on, and we can work through policy priorities," she said. "Communication is going to benefit everyone."
In a statement, Romney said the Spokane congresswoman "understands the impact of the economic challenges Americans face and the need to put our country on a better track."
"As a member of the leadership team in the House, she will be a helpful partner in our efforts to ensure our focus remains on the critical issue of economic security for all Americans," he added.
McMorris Rodgers enjoys the trust and support of top Republican congressional leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). She serves as the conference's vice-chairman and takes part in leadership meetings. Boehner called her "a proven leader and an important voice in our majority, which is focused on getting things done for jobs and the economy."
A fiscal conservative, she was chosen by Boehner to serve on a 10-member task force on earmark reform. Close congressional watchers know her best as the woman most often photographed standing with Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) during news conferences.
A former farmer and member of the Washington state legislature, McMorris Rodgers has served in Congress since 2004.
With congressional approval ratings hovering in the teens, Romney may find it useful to occasionally separate himself from members of his own party in Washington. It will fall to McMorris Rodgers to smooth relations.
She has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential pick, and the new role is likely to resurrect some of that speculation.
McMorris Rodgers will work alongside Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who has served as a top Capitol Hill lieutenant for Romney since last fall.