Poor Carly Fiorina. She’s all but certain to miss the first big Republican debate on Thursday when the final polling numbers are used today at 5:00pm to decide who gets in and who doesn’t. Only ten Republicans – those whose average polling numbers top the rest – will win spots on the premier Fox News debate stage at 8:00pm Thursday. However, Fiorina will still get to participate in the lower-tier debate preceding that one that includes all the other candidates who didn’t make the cut (which Donald Trump would probably label the “loser” debate).
So how has that happened? Many Republicans will shrug their shoulders, but to this Democrat it’s surprising, probably because I’ve seen countless primary contests on my side over the years where female candidates easily coalesce support from women voters, giving them an edge. Obviously Republican primary-goers have a smaller percentage of female voters, are unfriendly to most feminist ideologies and have bemoaned “identity politics” for as many years as Democrats have made it effective. Still, Fiorina’s barely even cracking 1% in most polls. Really?
Think about that. There’s 17 candidates in the race. Only one of them is a woman. You’re telling me there aren’t enough female Republicans who feel the slightest bit of gender solidarity to get that “you go girl” feeling and say they’re backing Fiorina? I mean, it’s not like she’s some gadfly candidate. She ran Hewlett-Packard. She has a compelling life story. She’s a good speaker and campaigner. And still, only 1%? How is Ben Carson or any of these candidates who’ve been out of office for over a decade any more legitimate?
Look, I don’t believe anyone should vote for a woman simply because she’s a woman. That’s how you get Sarah Palins. And you don’t want anymore Sarah Palins. But speaking of the former Alaska Governor/reality TV personality, didn’t she whip up a lot of conservative female excitement by talking about being a hockey mom? Where did that sentiment go?
Actually, a Palin-Fiorina comparison brings up a very interesting thought about conservative female voters. Palin appealed to them through being a “mama bear,” her small-town roots with images of attending her kids’ hockey games, her religion and a folksy/sassy “lipstick-on-a-pig” attitude. Fiorina’s life and appeal, on the other hand, is rooted in rising up from the secretarial pool, fighting her way through male-dominated corporate hierarchy, and becoming the high-powered CEO of a major corporation. Palin’s imagery is one many conservative women know and live every day. Fiorina’s is one they might find inspiring, but it’s not their life – nor may it even be something they’d want.
Fiorina often talks about empowerment at her events. She speaks of unlocking potential, especially in women. But she’s running in a Republican primary dominated in some states by evangelical voters, where stay-at-home moms home-school their children. I don’t claim to be an expert on evangelical voters, but are these women simply happy with their lives, and can’t imagine the type of one that Fiorina lives?
Perhaps that’s part of the reason Fiorina struggles to break out from the pack. Or perhaps it’s mostly because of Trump dominating the news, the fact that it’s still early, and that she started with a lower profile than the other candidates. Still, though. Only 1% in the polls for the only female candidate in a field of 17? For this Democrat, who most of my friends are strong, politically-active women, that’s simply unimaginable. And I think it’s a sad state of affairs for the Republican Party as a whole.
by Pat Rynard