The Palin Factor

November 3, 2008

Tomorrow it will all be over.  At least we hope, hanging chads and recounts aside.

And as we head into the final hours of the election, new polls are indicating that Sarah Palin may be dragging the Republican ticket down, and McCain may be doing better in the polls without her.

According to a new CNN poll released yesterday, if Biden and Palin were to go toe-to-toe on a separate vote for Vice President, Biden would beat his opponent by 12 points. And, removing the Palin factor, would give Obama only a 4-point lead over McCain.

Conventional wisdom tells us that people vote for the top of the ticket.  But, according to a New York Times article earlier this week, a third of voters say the vice presidential pick is a major factor in their vote.  And 59 percent of voters say Sarah Palin is not prepared for the job of vice president.

And it makes sense.  When Barack Obama chose Joe Biden to join his ticket, he gained experience, respectability and conventionality.  When John McCain chose Sarah Palin, he gained youth and excitement at the base of the Republican party.  But, much like the scrutiny Obama faced over whether or not he had enough experience to be president, Palin has had to work to prove herself.  And according to these numbers, it doesn’t look like most Americans think she passed the test.

Either way, after nearly two years of intense campaigning, November 4 will come and go and, with it, a new president and vice president.  I’m excited to look at where Sarah Palin, only the second women to be nominated for vice president by a major party, will fit into the future of the Republican party.

Don’t forget to vote.


What do women want?

November 3, 2008

In two days, Americans will head to the polls.  Many will be women.
According to an article in the Connecticult Post yesterday, 38 million women who were elgible to vote sat out in the 2004 election.  But the 2008 election has been all about the women–from the big names, like Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin to the women behind the candidates, like Barack Obama’s senior advisor Valerie Jarrett to the women at home, like Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain.

But even as Americans could be days away from electing the first female vice president, most women are throwing their support behind the Obama/Biden ticket, according to a recent Newsday article.  And, in some states, this difference is remarkable.  According to a Boston Globe article from earlier this week, for instance, Obama has an overall lead of 53 to 40 percent; the difference jumps to 60 to 35 percent when just considering women voters.  It seems sharing the same gender is not enough.  Women want a candidate who supports their rights.

As the National Organization for Women put it, “Not every woman supports women’s rights.”

As feminist Gloria Steinem put it in the LA Times earlier in the election season to Clinton supporters who were courting a McCain Vote, “To vote in protest for McCain/Palin would be like saying, ‘Somebody stole my shoes, so I’ll amputate my legs.'”

As Hillary Clinton put it earlier today in Florida, “Don’t let your friends vote Republican!”

And as Barack Obama put it last year, “Women have always made the difference in every election, and this year, your voice, your hope will be the deciding factors in forging a new future for America.”

I hope he’s right.

Just a pretty face

November 1, 2008

When Americans head to the polls next week, they’ll be looking for candidates they think are competent.  For the men.  The women have a whole different set of standards.

According to a study released from Northwestern University this week, voters are looking for competence when they cast their ballots for men.  Not so for women–they want both competence and attractiveness.

A CNN article explained the methodology, which included showing more than 70 college students pictures of congressional candidates and asking them to rate them for several factors, including attractiveness and competence.

According to the Associated Press, who interviewed the principal investigator in the study, Northwestern’s Joan Chiao, having one quality or the other isn’t enough to predict how people will vote; women need both. According to the article, “‘For female candidates, it really matters if they’re perceived as competent and perceived as attractive. Those two qualities are sort of twin predictors of whether or not someone is going to be more or less likely to vote for them,’ Chiao stressed.”

Seriously?  No matter how many cracks we’ve put in the glass ceiling this election season–from 18 million votes for Hillary Clinton to Sarah Palin’s vice presidential nomination from a major party–we won’t shatter it until voters rethink their criteria.  

Lucky for Sarah Palin, she’s an ex-beauty queen.

Sarah the Diva?

October 27, 2008

McCain aids are starting to clash with his would-be vice presidential pick.  And one’s even calling her a diva.  Yes, a diva.

According to an article from CNN yesterday, a McCain adviser said, “She is a diva.  She takes no advice from anyone…She does not have relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else.”  Another aide said she was “going rouge.”

Apparently Palin has been veering off-script at recent rallies and even holding impromptu meetings with journalists.  According to another CNN article, Palin spoke about the $150,000 wardrobe question at a rally yesterday, despite the fact that it wasn’t part of the script.

I say it’s about time.  I think everyone is tired of Sarah Palin being protected from the press by the campaign (last week’s exclusive in the Chicago Tribune was only her second newspaper interview since her candidacy was announced!).  It’s time to stop decrying “gotcha journalism” and sexist media and put her in front of Americans.  Hiding her is even more sexist on the part of the McCain campaign than letting us see what she’s made of.  

And if she can’t cut it in the public eye, then we have a right to know.  Barack Obama can accept that Joe Biden is given to “rhetorical flourishes,” and, in so doing, has let us see what his VP candidate is all about (by the way, I didn’t hear anyone call him a diva). In these last few days before the election, let’s see what Sarah Palin is made of.

The $150,000 Question

October 26, 2008

Sarah Palin’s wardrobe is making headlines again–but this time it’s not about whether or not she’d make a best dressed list.  Earlier this week, reports surfaced that the Republican National Committee paid $150,000 for Sarah Palin’s campaign wardrobe, including clothes from Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.

The reaction has been astounding.

CNN’s anchor and commentator Campbell Brown says it’s understandable.  For women in the public eye, she explains, “looks matter.”  She says, fair or not, women in our society face a double standard that men don’t have to live up to.  People have been paying attention to the women’s clothing all through the election, giving little thought to Barack Obama or John McCain’s wardrobe choices.

And I agree with Brown.  Of course the Republican party is going to help to give Sarah Palin the right campaign wardrobe.  But in these economic times, does it have to be $150,000?  Can’t she show other Americans how she does it on a budget?

Today Palin lashed back, comparing the clothing to the lights or other equipment at a campaign speech, according to an MSNBC article.  It’s essentially something that she’s borrowing temporarily for the purposes of the campaign.  And, in an interview with the Chicago Tribune this week, Palin called her family “frugal” and said the clothing would be auctioned off or given to charity after the election.

According to bloggers in an interview with NPR this week (listen here), the problem isn’t the amount of money she spent, it’s how she’s divided Americans into “real Americans” and elite Americans, and her clothing bill is certainly high-end.

The whole thing doesn’t seem like it would appeal to “Joe Six Pack.”  Wonder what Joe the Plumber would think?

Sarah on Hillary

October 22, 2008

When John McCain first announced that Sarah Palin would be his running mate, Palin’s stump speeches often included references to disillusioned Hillary Clinton supporters.  When the reference to the New York senator drew boos from the crowds, Palin stopped mentioning her—but now she’s bringing it back.


Palin—and five former Hillary Clinton supporters—campaigned on the grounds of women’s rights in Nevada yesterday.


According to an MSNBC article, Palin cited a study that indicated that Obama’s female employees make 83 cents to every dollar a male employee makes.  “Does he think that they are 17 percent less effective?” she asked.


The response from the Obama campaign: Palin was misrepresenting a study that found that more males are in senior positions on his campaign staff and, because of that, made more money.


A CNN article on the same speech said that Palin asked why Hillary Clinton wasn’t even vetted as a vice presidential candidate by Barack Obama.


According to an October 13 poll by Rasmussen Reports, 55 percent of people have a favorable opinion of democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden, while 53 percent have a favorable opinion of Palin.  But the numbers aren’t so close when just looking at women—the same poll found that 56 percent of men have a favorable opinion of the Alaskan governor, while 49 percent of women had a favorable opinion of her.


As feminist Gloria Steinem put it in her LA Times editorial last month—the only thing Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin share is a chromosome.


And I agree.  Let’s look at where the candidates actually stand on women’s issues—equal pay for equal work, reproductive rights, protection against domestic violence, etc.  Coming in a female package isn’t convincing enough for me, Sarah Palin.  If you want women like me to vote for you, show instances where either you or John McCain have committed yourselves politically to women’s rights.

Women in the polls

October 20, 2008


Barack Obama and John McCain are getting closer in the polls--and the women's vote may matter even more.

Barack Obama and John McCain are getting closer in the polls--and the women's vote may matter more than ever. Photo courtesy of CNN.

As candidates have been talking about the “women’s vote” since the primary season, I think it’s time to break down where female voters are standing in the polls in the final weeks before election day.



According to the daily tracking poll results released today by Rasmussun Reports, Barack Obama currently leads McCain overall, 50 percent to 46.  But this four-point lead almost triples when just considering women—Obama has an eleven point lead.  McCain has a five-point lead over Obama among men.


According to September Gallup poll results, among Democrats, 85 percent of women support Obama, to McCain’s 9.  Among Independents, Obama snags 45 percent, compared to McCain’s 41 percent.  And among Republicans, Obama has the support of 7 percent of Republicans, compared to McCain’s 89.


And it looks like the candidates should care about what women want.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 65 percent of women voted in the 2004 presidential election, compared to 62 percent of men.


As the election season heats up and the race continues to tighten, I want to keep a closer eye on these poll numbers, as well as what each of these candidates are doing to appeal to female voters.  November 4 may just become ladies’ night.

Previous female candidates sound off on this female candidate

October 19, 2008

As the election looms closer, previous female candidates are sounding off on what they think of Sarah Palin’s run for the vice presidency.


Earlier this week, Hillary Clinton said in an interview with CNN that she wants a “woman in the White House I agree with.”  While she thinks it’s “exciting” to have a female name on the ticket, she would rather have someone win who shares her political goals for the country.


In this month’s issue of Glamour (online version here), Geraldine Ferraro, who was the first woman nominated for vice president by a major party, in this case by the Democratic Party in 1984 gave Sarah Palin her advice—having been there and done that.  She addresses the wardrobe issue, saying that the media should stop comparing her clothing choices to those of the potential first ladies.  She also says that, even though she may not vote for Palin’s ticket, “‘Anytime a woman runs, women win.’”


I’m not sure if I agree.  While it’s great for a woman to be taken seriously as a presidential or vice presidential candidate, I believe that a candidate’s views on women’s rights do even more to further women in this society than simply having a name on the ticket.  As November fast approaches, I’d rather hear what the candidates have to say about the fundamental rights of women in America and abroad, not about the fact that one of them is a woman.

Candidates debate hot-button issue

October 19, 2008

In the third debate (watch the whole thing here) last week, Barack Obama and John McCain finally focused on the issue that is often considered the most important among feminist groups—abortion.


Obama and McCain, who would likely have the chance to appoint at least one Supreme Court justice in a first term of presidency, debated whether or not they had a litmus test for a justice appointment and whether or not Roe v. Wade was or should be that test.


An article in U.S. News and World Report that analyzed the debate also explained how Barack Obama said he believed in the so-called partial-birth abortions if a woman’s life was in danger.  McCain, on the other hand, said this exception was, according to the article, “too loosely in order to justify more abortions.”


According to his Web site, John McCain “believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned, and as president he will nominate judges who understand that courts should not be in the business of legislating from the bench.

Check out this article from MSNBC, which breaks down each candidate’s voting record on abortion and lays out what’s at stake in this election from an abortion standpoint.  The article also details an instance in the 2000 presidential election when John McCain seemed to switch his stance on abortion, first saying that he doesn’t think it should be repealed, and then later saying he would work to its repeal as president.


While I was watching the debate, I heard a little flip-flopping myself. McCain explained that he doesn’t have a litmus test for a Supreme Court justice, but that if someone agreed with Roe v. Wade, he or she wouldn’t be a qualified judge.


I think this explanation is just confusing.  He can’t win both sides over by saying that he disagrees with Roe v. Wade but that he doesn’t necessarily have a litmus test.  The whole thing feels like double-talk.

Election 2008’s Women hit PA

October 13, 2008

This weekend the female stars of both the primary and general election season have been campaigning hard in the state of Pennsylvania.

Senator Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton joined Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Senator Biden and his wife for a campaign rally in Scranton, Pennsylvania on Sunday, according to an article on CNN.  Clinton, who beat Obama in the state by 10 points during the primaries, mainly focused on the economic crisis and Obama and Biden’s commitment to the middle class.

And, according to another CNN article, Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin spent her Saturday in the keystone state.  At a rally in Johnstown, Penn., she spent a third of a thirty-minute speech discussing her stances on abortion and criticizing Obama’s voting record on the issue.

After stopping for lunch in Altoona, Penn., (my hometown, coincidentally), Palin, a self-proclaimed Hockey mom, dropped the puck at a Philadelphia Flyers game, to a mixed crowd cheering and booing, according to an MSNBC article

Before this weekend, the state preferred Obama by a healthy margin.  According to a Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion poll released on October 8, Obama lead McCain by 12 percentage points, up from four points on September 26.