The Fate Of Female Candidates

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Emily Bazelon on Linda McMahon, Christine O'Donnell and Kelly Ayotte:


The headline on my hometown of New Haven's Web site reads "Blumenthal Beats McMahon; Women Doomed Her."(We are unafraid of semi-colons.) In a Monday poll, Republican Linda McMahon was four points ahead among men but 25 points down among women. That's not a gender gap--it's a chasm. Women were clearly not moved purely by the desire to give Connecticut its first female senator...

If there's a gender lesson in Connecticut, it's that odd-duck female candidates make women voters as nervous as wacky men do. Christine O'Donnell in Delaware is Exhibit B for this point. She got a ton of attention, but she never got the majority of voters in her state to take her seriously. O'Donnell surely has a future ahead of her as conservative talk-show girl, just as she had a past. But she proved that it doesn't play well everywhere to run as Sarah Palin's younger sister. 

Kelly Ayotte looks like a far sturdier model. She had Palin's endorsement, and ads in which she proclaimed herself "tough," shot a gun, rode a snowmobile, and showed off her Iraq vet husband. But more than theatrics, Ayotte had a law-enforcement record as New Hampshire's attorney general. She didn't get O'Donnell's national press, but she's the East Coast Republican woman to watch.

I think the rewards of identity politics are overrated. If you're already credible, they can help quite a bit. Hanna Rosin looks at Nikki Haley, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina here. It's petty, but I'm really glad Fiorina lost. I know Prop 19 went down, but California could have had an anti-choice, global warming-denier for a Senator too.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle. More

Born in 1975, the product of two beautiful parents. Raised in West Baltimore -- not quite The Wire, but sometimes ill all the same. Studied at the Mecca for some years in the mid-'90s. Emerged with a purpose, if not a degree. Slowly migrated up the East Coast with a baby and my beloved, until I reached the shores of Harlem. Wrote some stuff along the way.

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