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In 2010 Elections, Women Rule


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Washington Examiner:

In 2010 elections, women rule
Examiner White House Correspondent
July 12, 2010

California Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina gestures during a news conference in Washington, Tuesday, June 29, 2010. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
The political and cultural shifts propelling more women to run for office this year grew out of the disappointments of 2008 and are part of a larger backlash against the old establishment.

Many elections are dubbed "The Year of the Woman," and every cycle has its variation of the soccer mom and the security mom: Dubious electoral icons that fuel more talk shows than real political results.

But this time there is a new shimmer to the old cliche, and a growing sense that the space women occupy in politics is expanding and changing.

"It seems like it's kind of a 'mom awakening' in the last year and half, where women are rising up and saying, 'No, we've had enough already," said Sarah Palin in her political action committee's new YouTube video.

Unlike previous election years, when a surge in female candidates generally favored Democrats, this year the candidates are running strong in both parties.

"One of the things we see with women emerging in politics is that when people are dissatisfied, they will turn to the women to fix it," said Nancy Sims, an adjunct professor of political science at the University of Houston.

One of the most-watched races this year is Republican Carly Fiorina's challenge to Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California.

Sims noted how the race sets up a contest between two familiar female political archetypes, with Boxer as the consummate, 1970s-era feminist, versus Fiorina's successful 1990s businesswoman.

One of the twists in the race is that given the Democratic Party's hold on power in Washington and the anti-incumbent fervor among voters, it's Fiorina who is running as the anti-establishment outsider.

"Women with financial acumen have a bit more credibility when they talk about balancing budgets, because more woman in America control the family purse strings," said Susan MacManus, a political scientist at the University of South Florida.

Plus, "at a time when people are down on government and corruption is so big, people tend to rate women as being a bit more honest and having a bit more integrity," MacManus said.

The current wave of female political ascension has many origins, but Hillary Clinton's 2008 White House bid gets a lot of the credit.

Another polestar is Palin, who has variously described her own female constituency as "mama grizzlies" and "pink elephants," warning of a stampede through Washington in November.

The economy also plays a role, with the recession costing many men their jobs and women claiming a more high-profile role as top workers and money earners.

Strong female voters want strong female candidates, and this year's field of aspirants tend to reflect that.

"I think we are on our way to a new normal in politics where it won't be such a novelty to see strong, viable women candidates," said Tony Shelton, a communications consultant. "What is going to be interesting is seeing how these candidates fare in the general election."
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