Thursday, November 09, 2006

Election Results Bode Well for Women in Politics

Women as a group were one of the biggest winners coming out of Tuesday's elections. Not only is Nancy Pelosi poised to become the nation's first woman Speaker of the House, but the number of women in the Senate will increase to 16 in the 110th Congress, after Amy Klobuchar won in Minnesota and Claire McCaskill picked up a seat in Missouri.

Most importantly, though, Hillary Clinton's fortunes progressed significantly with the Democrats' electoral victories, and her own reelection to the Senate.
As this New York Times story notes, Clinton is widely considered the Democratic front-runner for 2008 and she can resist demands for a formal announcement of her presidential bid for only so long:

After insisting for months that she was merely focusing on her re-election, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton emerged from her landslide victory yesterday morning with a new excuse for sidestepping questions about the 2008 campaign: She said that she was too exhilarated from the midterms to talk about the future.

“All I’m thinking now is how excited I am that we’ve had a great election for the country and for our state and for our city,” Mrs. Clinton said after trouncing her opponent, former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer, by capturing 67 percent of the vote.

On a victory tour of the state, Mrs. Clinton attended a breakfast with firefighters in Midtown Manhattan, met with supporters on Long Island, then traveled upstate by plane, with stops in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany.

Now that she has secured a second term, Mrs. Clinton is expected to announce a decision about her presidential plans within the next few months. In the meantime, she has kept all of her options open by raising millions of dollars that could be used toward a national campaign and hiring important staff members who could run her race — all without openly discussing her thinking or even acknowledging a White House bid as a next step.

Although she tops some public opinion surveys among potential Democratic nominees, some in the party have expressed doubts that Mrs. Clinton, a polarizing figure in national politics, could win a general election. And even some voters who supported Mrs. Clinton in New York in this election were less than convinced that she should run for national office. About three-quarters of the people who voted for her for Senate said they thought that she would be a good president; about one-quarter did not.

Over all, 57 percent of voters questioned when leaving the polls in New York said that she would make a good president, but 39 percent said she would not. In the 2000 election, Vice President Al Gore won 60 percent of New York’s electorate. In 2004, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts won 58 percent in the state.

Asked the same about Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, 46 percent of the people who were questioned after leaving the polls in New York said that he would make a good president. George W. Bush, then governor of Texas, won 35 percent in New York in 2000; the president improved to 40 percent in 2004.

Regarding the 2008 presidential campaign, 55 percent of New Yorkers questioned said that they would vote for Mrs. Clinton if she were the candidate, while 36 percent said they would vote for Mr. Giuliani.
In national polls,
Clinton is doing well against Senator John McCain as well as Giuliani. It will be interesting to see how long Clinton waits to make a formal announcement of her candidacy. As the Times piece notes, there's some concern among top Democrats over whether Clinton should run. Perhaps the fear is that she'll be too liberal, despite her move to the center since taking office in 2001. Or, perhaps there's worry of Clinton fatigue, especially whether voters have residual issues with Bill Clinton's improprieties during his administration.

I like Hillary Clinton, although I'll vote for the GOP candidate in 2008 should she win the Democratic nomination. She should definitely run, in any case. Very few people have opportunities like this. The timing of the current political environment is near perfect. Clinton's in such good shape for a run at the White House that a decision to seek the majority leader post instead (as the article points out) would seem utterly insane. She's geared up for this since seeking a Senate seat in the first place -- it'd be strange if she threw away her chance now.

I'd like to see a woman elected president at some point. The United States needs to have its own Margaret Thatcher. I don't think Clinton fits that mold, but her candidacy -- whether or not she herself wins the office -- will be a milestone for the advancement of women in American politics.

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