In the two-year cycle of the political calendar, it is candidate-recruitment season—the time when Washington operatives fan out across the country to size up the political horseflesh. In the months to come, they will meet with scores of state legislators, small-town mayors, community activists, and upstanding business owners, gauging which ones might have what it takes to run for a House or Senate seat, or for governor or state treasurer. These political scouts will take many qualities into account, from life story to speaking ability to baby-kissing skills. But they will be looking, in particular, for a few good women.
These days, political consultants take for granted that, all else being equal, women make more desirable candidates. Which means that Democratic and Republican operatives alike yearn for nothing more than to discover the next Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat and former natural-gas-plant director who was elected the junior senator from North Dakota last November, or Deb Fischer, a previously little-known state legislator who won a tough Republican primary and then beat former Senator Bob Kerrey on her way to the Senate last year. Democrats recently failed in their efforts to recruit the actress Ashley Judd to run against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell next year, but the 2014 election cycle will nonetheless feature a legion of eagerly anticipated female political prospects, from Pennsylvania’s Allyson Schwartz, a Democrat preparing to seek the governorship, to West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican running for Senate. “Women make wonderful candidates for Republicans,” Mike Shields, the chief of staff at the Republican National Committee (formerly the political director of the National Republican Congressional Committee), told me. “It’s no secret our party needs to make progress with women voters, and for that, we need more women leaders.” Democrats feel the same way, according to Andrew Myers, a Democratic pollster who works with an array of local, statewide, and congressional candidates. “We are always looking for more women to run,” he said.