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Anita Perry, Callista Gingrich address conservative women

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD -- Conservative women met right outside the nation's capital today to encourage more Republican women to run for office. Among the speakers appearing at the Women Working for Change Conference were two spouses of 2012 Republican candidates.

Anita Perry, wife of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, cited recent electoral victories for Nikki Haley in South Carolina and Susana Martinez in New Mexico as evidence of conservative women changing politics.

“When conservative women gather together for a common cause, it doesn't threaten men the most,” Perry said. “It threatens liberals the most, because when it comes to ending politics as usual, conservative women are the real change.” 

Also speaking was Callista Gingrich, wife of Newt Gingrich, who focused much of her 15-minute speech on American exceptionalism and her new children’s book. But she also commented on her husband’s rise in recent polls.

“Over the last few months, the polls have been wild,” she said. “In June and July, Newt and I were told that our campaign was dead. That was hard. Recent polls reflect that Newt is surging ahead. Candidly, this is better than being dead.”

Gingrich committed to running a “positive, issue-oriented and solutions-based campaign,” and said that the candidates and their families have become friends while campaigning for the Republican nomination.

“Many of us have bonded along the campaign trail as we go through similar life-changing experiences,” she said.  “We are all in this together and believe that what we are doing is in the best interest of our country. Our only opponent is Barack Obama, and we are committed to removing him from the white House.”

But Anita Perry said that of all the potential nominees, her husband “represents the most comprehensive change.”

“He is the only candidate who isn't part of the establishment. He is the true outsider who will bring a breath of fresh air to the Beltway,” Perry said. “He knows who he is and he knows what he believes. I can promise you this -- if you help elect him president, he will make you proud.”

Among the other speakers was former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who reflected on her tenure in both Bush administrations.

I always thought that the differences in them were overdrawn -- that it was really more the nature of the world that they inherited that explains when and how they were different. George H.W. Bush was one of the great diplomats I've really ever seen,” Rice said. “When you think about the world that he inherited, we were fortunate that first go around to be at the end of a historical epoch.”

George W. Bush, she said, was president “at the beginning of a big historical epoch” with a strengthened al Qaeda. Rice also gave Bush some of the credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden and said that the Bush administration first learned of the courier that eventually led U.S. intelligence to bin Laden was first learned about in 2007.

“I'm very grateful to President Obama, to kill Osama bin Laden,” Rice said. “I think President Obama took a difficult decision, and he's to be applauded for that. I was grateful that President Bush had given him the tools to do it.”

And for some of the Republican women in the audience looking for role models, Rice offered advice from her own experience

“I know we sometimes say you have to have role models that look like you, well I don't really believe that,” Rice said. “If I had been looking for a black, female, Soviet specialist role model, I'd still be looking.  Most of my role models were white men, as a matter of fact, old white men.”