June 28, 2011 / Opportunity, Politics, Sexism

What Are the Chances of a Woman Winning the Presidency?


According to a Rasmussen Reports survey out yesterday, “nearly three-out-of-four voters (73%) now think it’s at least somewhat likely that a woman will be elected president in the next 10 years.” We should be jumping for joy. Not so much. Or at least not just yet.

Duke Professor John Aldrich has explained: “The standard line that anyone can grow up to be president may be true, but it is true only if one grows up to be a major party nominee.”

Rep. Michele Bachmann announces her candidacy for president on June 27, 2011.

And that is the challenge. No woman has been able to win a major party nomination. Not even Hillary Clinton, former First Lady and U.S. Senator and current Secretary of State, who is the only woman to have begun the presidential contest in the “front-runner” position.

Although Elizabeth Dole ran for the Republican nomination in 2000 and Carol Moseley Braun ran for the Democratic nomination in 2004, both withdrew from the contests before the Iowa caucuses even met.

Where does this leave newly-announced Representative Michele Bachmann and former Governor Sarah Palin, should she decide to make the run? In better shape than one might imagine.

Both are proficient fundraisers. Even though Palin was not a candidate in 2010, she raised nearly $5.7 million through Sarah PAC. While running for reelection, Michelle Bachmann’s Committee raised over $13.5 million in the 2010 political cycle.

Both are admired and supported by voters who consider themselves either part of the Tea Party or sympathetic to the movement’s primary concerns: profligate federal spending and big government.

Ad for the new documentary on Sarah Palin.

Both have political credentials and electoral experience that are not insignificant.

Palin was not only a governor, but she was also an appointee on Alaska’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Bachmann has not only served as a member of the House since winning office in 2006, but she has also earned graduate two degrees (J.D. and L.L.M.).

And the clincher, Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina may help make one of them the Republican nominee before that state’s votes are even cast. Haley is expected to veto a bill that would provide state funding for the 2012 primary.

Should Haley proceed as expected and should the State Republican Party respond by deciding to move to a closed caucus system instead of closed primary (because it is less expensive), then the Palmetto State’s contest will favor – even more than it does – the conservative candidates in the race. Iowa on steroids. This means that Governor Tim Pawlenty, former Governor Mitt Romney, and Ambassador Jon Huntsman would have difficulty gaining traction among the activists. This is even more true, if they lose the earlier contests of Iowa and New Hampshire.

South Carolina – also home to Senator Jim DeMint and a raucous Tea Party – appears poised once again to choose the Republican nominee (G.W. Bush defeated McCain in 2000, and McCain defeated Romney and Huckabee in 2008). The difference this time is that a woman’s leadership in the State House may lead to a woman’s leadership in the White House.

But this is only true if women vote for women. Both in 1984, when Geraldine Ferraro was on the Democratic ticket with Walter Mondale and in 2008, when Sarah Palin was on the Republican ticket with John McCain, the paucity of women voters supporting these tickets (approximately 44 percent of women voted for each ticket) was one of the key factors in these candidates’ losses.

The choice to have a woman in the White House is a woman’s choice. It is time to make the choice to support political women.

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