The Fate Of Female Candidates

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.

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