I can validate this phenomenon from personal experience. I once observed a focus group for a client, a Republican woman candidate for Congress. She was thought to have innumerable weaknesses, though we considered her gender an obvious strength. We were thrilled to see that she sustained her favorability when we highlighted her presumed shortcomings to participants. But when we played up the gender-angle, the needle plunged among white guys. The focus group fundamentally altered our approach to voters.
"That’s the kind of thing you see whenever these situations arise," my source told me. "Generally speaking, being a woman is an electoral advantage, but running as a woman is a weakness."
Nevertheless, that Pelosi is our nation’s first female Speaker of the House is a fait accompli. There’s no turning the clock back on this one, boys. But Pelosi’s Girl Power! routine runs the risk of harming the prospects of that other Democrat woman looking to achieve higher public office: New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.
It may not matter that Sen. Rodham Clinton has heretofore avoided Pelosi-style Girl Power! rhetoric. Male voters have tended to express their irritation toward in-their-face gender politics in subsequent elections. Remember, 1992’s "The Year of the Woman" was followed by 1994’s "The Year of the Angry White Male." (Yes, I know, the Angry White Male dynamic is an unsubstantiated myth, but you get my point.)
This is a problem for Sen. Rodham Clinton because men are very much part of the Pelosi coalition. President George W. Bush beat Sen. John Kerry among male voters in 2004 by a margin of 55% to 44%. But in 2006, male voters chose Democrats over Republicans by a margin of 50% to 47%. Republican support from white men fell from 62% in 2004 to 53% in 2006. In a manner of speaking, white guys gave the girls the gavel. Will they regret it?
"If I were Hillary Clinton," my source says, "I would ask Speaker Pelosi to cool it."
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