Live-blogging Midmorning: Women and Palin

Does a candidate’s gender really make a difference? That’s one of the questions we’re exploring this morning during the first hour of MPR’s Midmorning. The guests are: Anna Greenberg, pollster and senior vice president with Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research; Jennifer Lawless, assistant professor of political science and public policy at Brown University; and

Kellyanne Conway, CEO and president of The Polling Company.

A new poll out today has John McCain catching Barack Obama, based largely on McCain’s selection of Palin.

I’ll be live-blogging in the studio and we’ll be discussing the issue in this space. Leave your comments and I’ll select the best ones for on-the-air mention.

9:06 a.m. We’re underway. I was thinking about this thread on the drive in today. Maybe that’ll help us dispatch with the “they’re picking on the women” theme right off the bat. We’ll see.

9:11 a.m. — Anna Greenberg, one of the guests today, was a speaker in Denver at one of the forums I covered. Does the fact she’s consulting for Democrats change things? She says there was a mixed reaction to Palin in her polls.

She brings up the fact some of the people responding to her polling said, “you wouldn’t be asking these questions of a man.” I presume she’s referring to the questions of balancing work as a family. But doesn’t that ignore a reality? Women do juggle work and family more than men. So isn’t it fair game?

9:14 a.m. — Jennifer Lawless appears to confirm this point by noting there may be a shift in the workplace, but not in the home. She says Palin was a “smart pick.” The “right” would normally be leveling these criticisms but now it can’t “because she’s their candidate.” She says it’s going to be about the issues. Is it? Since when do the issues affect election outcomes?

9:16 a.m. – Let the record show the first two comments are from men… and say gender is not an issue.

9:17 a.m. – Guest raises interesting point. Is Palin a feminist in a time of a “fluid” definition. She says there’s no evidence women will vote for McCain-Palin simply because she’s a woman. “There’s no evidence she’s had any impact on the race other than solidfying the Republican base.” She mentions this poll from ABC News, that says the issue is experience.

Tangent time: Palin to give first national media interview later this week.

9:23 a.m. – Caller says Palin is using motherhood/womanhood as a qualification, so questioning on that basis is a fair point. Greenberg says a corollary is John Edwards. There was a lot of criticism when he announced he was having an affair, but when he invited Nightline to his house, “he invited that part of the political discourse.” If Palin is invoking her hockey momness, she’s opened the door.

9:29 a.m. – “One of the culprits in this story is the media,” Greenberg says. She says the media says the media treats women as a monolithic voting bloc. I admit, here, to feeling a little icky about a Democratic pollster saying that. I’m not sure she’s indicated that she does consult for the Democrats. (Update: It has been.)

9:31 a.m. – Just wondering while listener say it’s hard to judge women by the decisions of her children: what does Mr. Palin do? “He’s a hockey dad,” says the Baltimore Sun. No, seriously, what does he do? He’s an oil worker. He’s also a championship snowmobile racer, according to CBS.

9:35 a.m. – Is this story a time bomb for the New York Times? Fusing Motherhood and Politics in a New Way attributes most of its source material to third parties.

9:40 a.m. Kellyanne Conway, CEO and president of The Polling Company, joins us. We’re talking about women as a voting bloc and she says there are blocs within blocs. Women by age, by race etc., and there is no single bloc. (Question: Does anyone really think women vote as a bloc? Why are we even talking about this?). Conway says Palin has a “commonality” among women because “she just seems like them.”

9:43 a.m. Deb makes an interesting point in the comments section below:


A topic that hasn’t yet arisen in this discussion, is that the issue is not her gender (female), but the expression of her gender in terms of how people perceive feminine or masculine behavior. And her socio-economic status. If you use this frame for this discussion, it helps to explain why there is such a range of reactions from women about Sarah Palin.

Does a woman really need to be able to gut a moose in the field to be acceptable?

9:48 a.m. – Does Palin’s decisions as a mother portend the decisions as vice president? KellyAnn says it’s nobody’s business how you choose to handle your own pregnancy. Referencing the Times story, the focus on her postpartum is ridiculous. “I think that people are overcompensating. I think if you need to see a double standard,… they never asked the basic questions about John Edwards and Elliot Spitzer.”

Over to you Anna. “There’s sexism in the coverage of Hillary Clinton. There’s sexism in the coverage of Sarah Palin.” She says the whole decision to keep the child was part of the campaign announcement. It’s very hard “to argue that these sorts of issues are off limits when they brought it up.”

The guests are having a nice debate with each other on the point. What did I start?

9:52 a.m. Ah, I see, we have a Republican pollster to balance the Democratic pollster. That brings up a thread for another time. Can you trust pollsters with at least one foot in one of the parties?

9:54 a.m. Where do Clinton voters go? This has been a debate for a few weeks now. The guest cites two points that says 20-percent of women who voted for Clinton in a primary or caucus are leaning toward McCain/Palin, says KellyAnn.

9:57 a.m. The zone of privacy. Jennifer says women and men — potential candidates — dislike the lack of privacy and this applies more to women than men. She brings up the “Hillary cry.” She says Sarah Palin is going to have to get used to it. Anna says the coverage of Obama, no one talks about his “zone of privacy” or the scrutiny his personal life has received. For example, is his religion or his church or his former pastor an issue?

== End (Keep talking below, though.) ==