So, How'd the Female Candidates Do?

What Mattered More, Women's Issues or Women Candidates?
What women really think about news, politics, and culture.
Nov. 4 2010 1:56 PM

So, How'd the Female Candidates Do?

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Michele Bachmann.
Michele Bachmann

Well, Hanna, it looks like Michele Bachmann heard your prayers and has decided to answer them: This morning's Washington Post says that Bachmann plans to seek the title of Republican conference chairman, the No. 4 post in the House. It sets up a slightly sticky situation because Eric Cantor has already endorsed Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas for the position. I guess the question of women's influence and that of the Tea Party will continue to blur together as we move forward.

Looking at the gender-related postmortems this morning, it seems that everyone agrees with you, Hanna, that these results were mixed for women, mixed for Sarah Palin, and mixed for meaning. One thing I have wondered about is whether it's significant the one place women made history was in the governor's races. One of the interesting things that will emerge from this election cycle is a discussion of whether it was women's issues or women candidates that mattered more to female voters. That's a good conversation to be having and one that's several decades overdue.

One thing gobsmacked me: the result for pro-life female candidates. According to this report, the percentage of women in the House of Representatives who are pro-life increased by 60 percent while the percentage of women who are pro-choice dropped by 16 percent. The number of pro-life female governors rose from one to four this week. According to the Susan B. Anthony List, their candidates beat Emily's List candidates 91 percent of the time, and they report that overall, Emily's List had a 38 percent success rate among its endorsed candidates.

Is that because candidates who support the right to choose lost the debate this time around, or is it because there was no debate at all? And I guess this is as good a place as any to note that the one place where women seem to be sitting way up on top of the world this week is at the Supreme Court, where Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg have been noisy, assertive, and also hilarious in about equal measure.

Finally, I was intrigued by your thoughts, Emily, on what the Alaska race means for Palin and wondered what either of you think about Palin's seemingly effortless ability to toggle back and forth between punditry, politics, and reality television. Are there male political leaders who manage that? Does her evasion of narrow classifications have anything to do with gender, I wonder?

Dahlia Lithwick writes about the courts and the law for Slate. Follow her on Twitter.

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