A Man's Place Is in the Kitchen

If he's running for public office, anyway: More and more campaign ads feature male candidates addressing voters from their kitchens.
[man cooking in kitchen]
JessySutton/flickr

From Massachusetts to New Mexico, male politicians are cooking up campaign videos set in the kitchen.

Democratic Peter Koutoujian served up the most recent example. He recently released a video announcing his candidacy to succeed Democratic U.S. Sen. Edward Markey in Congress. Koutoujian, seated at a table in a cheerful, bright kitchen, looked squarely into a camera as he introduced himself to voters.

"Male candidates and their campaigns are more aware than ever of women as a voting block," said Adrienne Kimmell, executive director of the nonpartisan Barbara Lee Foundation in Cambridge, Ma. "They'll do anything they can to appeal to women voters."

Videos and ads set in kitchens can be subliminally powerful, Kimmell explained, because they tap into the historical norm that the kitchen is a female domain and where women handle the family budget. Koutoujian and other male candidates signal they're regular guys "who get it," and not just politicians, when they set themselves in a kitchen, she said.

The national trend has male politicians concocting some successful ads and others whose results were mixed:

In Connecticut, 2012 progressive Democrat Christopher Murphy rolled out this ad in his 2012 U.S. Senate race. He starts off the day in a busy kitchen with his family before sprinting to spread the word he's running.

In New Mexico, Democrat Sen. Martin Henrich checks off a to-do list in a cluttered kitchen in this 2012 ad.

Republican former Sen. Scott Brown ran multiple ads from his kitchen, first in his 2010 win over Democratic state Attorney General Martha Coakley, and then in his 2012 loss against current Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren to offset a national GOP image perceived by some as anti-woman.

Kimmell said Koutoujian's video appears to couple setting with substance to appeal to women.

In his new ad, Sheriff Koutoujian speaks into the camera saying he'll be a "strong, progressive leader" who'll focus on health care, domestic violence, and continue his work on preventing stalking.

He also says he'll focus on "growing the economy and jobs."

Why Are They Doing It?
The 2012 presidential race showed candidates can't win without the support of female voters.

"The political math is simple," said Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia. "Women comprise a majority of the electorate in every state, and so a candidate simply has to do reasonably well with women to win. You can lose women, but not by a lot."

Mitt Romney is a case in point. He failed to connect with women, even after he brought his popular wife, Ann, with him on the trail. He won 52 percent of men, but lost 55 percent of women, Sabato said.

Women may not agree on all hot-button issues like reproductive rights. But women care about so-called "household," like paying the electric bill and for college, said Shannon O'Brien, a former Democratic Massachusetts Treasurer and veteran campaigner who lost the Massachusetts governor's race to Mitt Romney in 2002.

Presented by

Edward Mason is former statehouse bureau chief for The Eagle-Tribune. He has written for Salon, the Boston Herald, and the Boston Globe

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