Session Host: Lisa Nelson (LN)
Session Moderator: Campbell Brown, CNN (CB)
Session Speakers: Amy Holmes, CNN (AH); Susan Estrich, CNN (SE); Susan Pinkus, LAT (SP)
(Looks like they're about to get started soon. I predict lots of reference to Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, naturally.)
Introductory remarks by LN, of Visa. Pep talk about economic growth and "lifting yourself out of poverty"--via microfinancing. She's referencing a program last evening I didn't see. Discusses "financial literacy" program. VISA empowers women financially around the world.
Introduction of CB, the moderator. Daughter of a Democrat, married to a Republican consultant.
CB: Things that have brought us together and divided us. Intros of AH, SE, SP.
Q1: What are we seeing from campaigns about reaching out to women?
AH: White females swung hard to Mc-P due to Palin's introduction. (Big laughs as she refers to eroding support.) Mom's issues, "values voters"--after the RNC white women gravitated to McCain. "White women, y'all are fickle."
SP: White women going more so for Obama than McCain. The economy is the driving issue of this election. McCain doesn't win on that issue. Confidence in economic plan, who will handle it better? Obama beats McCain handily. White women are still in the McCain aisle, but now we're seeing a big change. Single women overwhelmingly for Obama. Married women now split.
SP: White married women are now seeing Obama in a different light. People want to feel hope. Older women in my LAT poll (65 years+) gave a 10 pt lead to McCain, but NBC poll today says older women are evenly divided.
CB: Hillary Clinton. Explain the phenomenom. Hillary dead-enders? Obstacles for women in politics.
SE: Relays anecdote: Bill Clinton called SE and said, "They're mad at Hillary because she didn't leave me. What do I do?" SE said she was tempted to tell Bill to take a hike. When Rick Lazio strutted across the stage in the first debate, literally overnight the numbers shifted. Helen Estrich school of thought: "I'm the only one allowed to support her, no one else can insult her."
SE: Clinton support skyrocketed. White married women saw themselves in Hillary. "Many of us saw her in what she had to put up with in her climb to the middle." (Big laughs.) Anger at Dem Party, "get out of the race", etc. Now, on Palin, when "liberal" media dumped on Palin "before she had a chance to place her own head in a guillotine"--the sexism heaped on Palin was so over the top and unnecessary, she became a symbol much like Hillary. The race sorted out, but that's her take, Palin benefited from "positive anger."
AH: It's generational--Obama cleaned up with younger women. Married women were far more likely to give Palin credit (53%) but not single women.
SP: Palin was given the benefit of the doubt, but now a majority don't think she's qualified. (moderate applause). Latest polls show her "rockstar" status has been diminishing, she doesn't do press conference, Couric interview didn't go over well. On second look, she's just not ready for prime time. In the beginning, women felt excited. September poll among Clinton voters, 25% said they'd vote for McCain. But now, only 15% say they'll vote for McCain, 70% are voting for Obama. Palin is now a drag on the ticket.
AH: Among Republicans, people like Sarah Palin more than McCain.
SP: Xtian conservative group is now stabilized, instead of moving them away. She energized that group that McCain couldn't count on before. She has huge rallies, his numbers are smaller.
CB: Sarah Palin as a mother--strong reactions among a lot of women. CB personally felt it inspiring. "The boys just don't have the same issues, quite frankly." But many women have the opposite reaction. If you become VP of the US, you won't see your family. Comment?
AH: Women are tough critics of each other. She found it inspiring even though she's childless.
SP: Women are not a monolithic group. Variety in sensibilities, life situation, etc. Young women have a different take on what's out there. Even among xtian conservative Republicans there's frustration that she's not going to be taking care of her kids in the home. When we slice and dice these demographics, it cracks her up...we make all these characterizations about these groups, but WE'RE NOT MONOLITHIC.
AH: Joe Biden gets applause for being a single parent.
SE: "A man makes a peanut butter sandwich and he's practically Father of the Year." (big laughs) There's nothing as satisfying, or more important than raising my two children. No one does it perfectly, you'll get criticized from every quarter. I made every sacrifice, turned down opportunities, only to hear teenage kids say, "You never picked me up at school." SE screamed and yelled at her left-wing colleagues who instead resorted to sexist attacks, "how dare she be so ambitious." SE: "Choice just doesn't revert to a gynecological procedure" it has meaning in all parts of your life. Etc. SE's takeaway from this election: We shouldn't look back and say "what a triumph that was, sexism was certainly a factor in how she was treated by the media....and for the woman on the other side of the ticket, sexism was also a factor in how she was treated by the media." Achieving equality in the power-making spots in the media--corporate-wise, editorially, etc--you have to be in denial.
CB: What about Hillary tearing up?
AH: We tear each other down. With Bristol's pregnancy, why is it the mother's fault? Bill Clinton's straying, was that Hillary's fault?
SP: Nobody in the press calls the press on their own sexism. If it's a racial comment, it gets called out. But no one calls out a sexist remark. Or even ageist remarks. They're more accepted. They think they can do it.
CB: There is progress. No question that Hillary Clinton was qualified. Prior to Hillary as a candidate, no one questioned this.
SP: Did any of that help Sarah Palin? No. Hillary's toughness was the flip side of her ambition. It came with a price. Is she or is she not a "whole" woman. We all walk this tightrope. Feminine, too feminine. "I've never met a man in corporate America or elsewhere who said to me, 'I'm worried I'm a little too masculine.'"
SP: Provocative observation--there was 30% of the electorate who wouldn't vote for her because she's a Clinton. How could I get at it that it was Hillary running for president? Would it have been different if it were another woman? Too hard to get at this. Would Susie Smith with same qualifications have done better?
CB: Who should we be watching?
AH: We can't underestimate Sarah Palin. She has name recognition. Many Republicans love her. She might run in 2012.
CB: But you can't ignore the polling.
AH: In four years from now, she'll be a more ...
SP: It did happen to Dan Quayle. Kathleen Sebelius, who was considered for Obama's VP. But you're right there is nopipeline [actually, this isn't factually correct if you look at various governors and senators--ed.].
SE: 1984, Geraldine Ferraro, I'll remember til I die calling her and saying, "Go to the hairdresser, it's coming." It was as if we'd broken through. There was a world of possibility. Why no woman governor of CA or NY ever? Where are the women who are running for executive positions? We need women for mayor, governorships, and so on. ...Palin was looking for a woman with conservative credentials who can energize the base and the list was too short. It's no secret that I was a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton because I had a strong desire to see a woman president in my lifetime.
Q1: Supreme Court. For this election, this is paramount.
A: Vote, on that basis.
Q2: Women in the pipeline. Anyone who wants to get there, Zoe Saldana will help. McCain was quick to jump in to say Obama is a xtian family man. Why didn't McCain didn't do the same thing when Hillary was referred to as a bitch?
AH: McCain did. Too slowly for it to be captured.
CB: When did Arab become a dirty word? Both of the candidates have not done enough on Islamophobia. The answer should be "so what if he is?" (loud applause)
SP: He acknowledged what she said was true.
Q3: Undecided voter, frustrated with journalists spending time on polls. We the voters don't care about polls. More info from journalists and not sexism. When are you going to be talking about more substance?
SE: How many of you would choose to watch tv stories 1) detailed analysis of health care plans, 2) juicy sex scandal at 11? What do we watch and reward?
AH: In 2000 and 2004, at least we had some respite from the horse race. But now it's horse race all the time.
CB: You are expected to go online and inform yourselves. Don't rely on cable news to inform yourself. We live in a soundbite world on tv, but if you're relying on tv you won't get substance you're seeking.
Q4: Bradley effect, do we have a Hillary effect? Men who would say one thing to a pollster and vote differently?
SP: Bradley effect is overblown. Anyway, re Clinton effect, it could be that some men could never vote for a woman. Male reporters say that some people/men they interview suddenly come out and say, "I couldn't vote for a woman."
Q5: More of a comment--encourage women to stay involved and active.
Cynematic blogs at P i l l o w b o o k.