From Publishers Weekly
Revisiting recent political campaigns led by women, Washington Post White House correspondent Kornblut measures the progress of female politicians and wonders whether, with women filling just 23 percent of statewide and 17 percent of Congressional offices, the political gender gap can ever be closed. Beginning with the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, Kornblut examines the consequences of candidates' choices amidst the conflicting demands of gender politics and personality politics: Clinton embraced toughness until it overshadowed her maternal appeal; she then exposed her vulnerability, famously crying on the campaign trail, only to be condemned for weakness and insincerity. Palin managed to balance strength and sensitivity, but her weak grasp of the current events proved the electorate's worst assumptions. Kornblut follows with other, more successful campaigns, including Janet Napolitano, former governor of Arizona; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; and California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, one of the few businesswomen ever to run for office. Through research and original interviews, Kornblut recounts scandals, strategies, and skepticism on the trail, and also sources a number of female operatives. More historical context would have helped illustrate change (and its lack) in the electoral landscape, but Kornblut's dedicated fieldwork makes a strong microanalysis of the political moment.
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Although neither Hillary Clinton nor Sarah Palin managed to pull off the historic achievement of becoming the first woman president or vice president, they have added to the debate about the likely prospect of a woman ever reaching the highest office. Washington Post reporter Kornblut reviews the campaigns of Clinton and Palin from the perspective of how the media and voters reacted to female candidates. Based on her own observations, as well as those of campaign consultants and advisors, Kornblut explores how the candidates wrestled—or not—with gender issues from appearance to the role of their husbands and children in the campaign. Clinton was determined to downplay her gender in favor of her experience, while Palin apparently was unconcerned about the issue but more willing than Clinton to use gender to her advantage as Republicans and Democrats reversed themselves on traditional feminist issues. Kornblut analyzes the double standard applied to Clinton, Palin, and a number of other female politicians, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and self-made billionaire and Republican California governor hopeful Meg Whitman. Kornblut concludes with an analysis of the long-range implications of the two historic campaigns for the future prospects of women in public office. --Vanessa Bush