The many moves to make with the ‘woman card’

Hillary Clinton speaks at a January 2016 campaign stop at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Photo Credit: Matt A.J./Flickr

Hillary Clinton speaks at a January 2016 campaign stop at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Photo Credit: Matt A.J./Flickr

Nichola D. Gutgold | Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences and Schreyer Honors College Associate Dean for Academics


As the contentious primary contests draw to a close, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the likely Democratic and Republican nominees for president, and, as such, they have begun to shift to a general election rhetoric. Trump has accentuated the gender of Clinton, asserting that it is an unfair advantage for her to play the “woman card.”

Nichola Gutgold

Nichola Gutgold

Women have figured prominently in the 2016 campaign, and as President Barack Obama optimistically noted in his commencement speech at Howard University, “… to deny how far we’ve come would do a disservice to the cause of justice.”

A review of the many ways to play the “woman card” — if that’s what you want to call it — reveals that no longer are women relegated to “staying home and baking cookies” (though, that is a nice option, if one chooses). The women who are part of this election are proof that unlike the small sphere of influence not that long ago relegated to women in the political world, the role of women has expanded and the real possibility that we may elect a woman president is only one part of that expansion.

Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly has sparred publicly with Donald Trump after challenging his characterizations of women as “fat pigs, slobs — and disgusting animals” in the first presidential debate. Barbara Bush, former first lady and mother of former presidential candidate Jeb Bush, publicly wondered how women could vote for Trump and encouraged her son to interrupt more.

Melania Trump, business woman, former model and wife of Donald Trump, has encouraged her husband to act more “presidential” while his daughter, Ivanka Trump, business woman and former model who just gave birth to her third child, is one of the more articulate spokespeople for her father’s campaign — especially when juxtaposed with Sarah Palin, former governor and vice presidential candidate who commented that Paul Ryan may well be “cantored ” — referring to the ousting of former Rep. Eric Cantor in a 2015 Virginia primary — for not supporting Donald Trump.

The Hillary Clinton campaign started issuing actual "woman cards" after Donald Trump said Clinton owed her success to playing the "woman card." Image credit:

The Hillary Clinton campaign started issuing actual “woman cards” after Donald Trump said Clinton owed her success to playing the “woman card.”
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Chelsea Clinton is a surrogate on the campaign trail for her mother while feminist icon Gloria Steinem and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright have had their moments in the spotlight during this campaign. North Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley endorsed Marco Rubio’s failed presidential effort and is considered as someone to watch on the national Republican stage, and actress America Ferrera publicly insists that “I am a female, millennial voter … and I’m not only voting for Hillary, but I really like Hillary.”

And, of course, there is Hillary Clinton herself — the front runner in the Democratic party and the Rorschach test of what it means to be a woman in America. She is a former “Goldwater Girl,” first lady, senator, secretary of state, mother and grandmother.

So what do the voters who are women really think about a woman president? Most of course love the idea, but they are not voting for Hillary because she is a woman. They are, however, donating to her campaign. The New York Times noted that close to half of Clinton’s “bundlers” — the volunteer fundraisers who solicit checks from friends and business associates — are women, compared with about a third of President Obama’s 2012 bundlers.

As Gail Collins noted in her five decades-long review of the women’s movement, “When Everything Changed,” no woman would want to turn back the clock to the “Mad Men” or “Apollo 13” days when a woman needed to be thin, perfectly made up with floors that gleamed to be worth anything.

So, yes, the woman card is playing out in lots of different ways. It is definitely not your mother’s woman card and positive proof of progress.

Pa. primary analysis: Expectations, momentum and the Wolf Effect

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Nicholas Pyeatt | assistant professor of political science at Penn State Altoona


Last Tuesday’s Pennsylvania Primary has come and gone, so here’s a follow up to a few of the “what to watch” highlights I previewed.

Nicholas Pyeatt

Nicholas Pyeatt

Clinton and Expectations: The overall results for Clinton were excellent. She won the state by roughly 12 percentage points and over 200,000 votes out of 1.6 million cast. More importantly, she was able to meet her expectations for the election margin and was able to win many more counties than expected. While some of her best counties were the urban ones (for example a 2 to 1 margin in Philadelphia County), she was able to win all of the suburban southeastern Pennsylvania counties, most of the counties around Pittsburgh and a number of rural counties as well.

In other words, not only did Clinton win big in the primary, but she won all in all the counties she will need to win the state in November. In 2012, Obama won the state by roughly 300,000 votes carrying only 13 of the state’s 67 counties: Erie, Allegheny, Centre, Dauphin, Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Northampton, Lehigh, Bucks, Montgomery, Philadelphia and Delaware. This past Tuesday, Clinton won every one of those counties except for Centre County and won a number of additional counties as well. All in all, Clinton may have effectively ended the primary with this decisive win in Pennsylvania.

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Trump and Momentum: As good as Pennsylvania was to Clinton last week, it was even better for Trump. While he continues to struggle with the more organizationally heavy primary tasks like state conventions, when it comes to winning Republican primaries, Trump has excelled. Last Tuesday, nationally he won all five states and all but one (Maryland) with more than 55 percent of the vote. In Pennsylvania, Trump was dominant, winning every single county and most of them with more than 50 percent of the vote. While the state’s large number of unpledged delegates may have muted his victory somewhat, his dominant performance gives him real momentum.

The Wolf Effect: While most of the national focus, quite rightly, was on the presidential primary, one of the most interesting elections last week was the primary for Senate on the Democratic side. Democrats are especially optimistic about their chances of flipping the upper chamber. To do so, they will have to pick a majority of freshman senators from 2010 such as Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey. While Toomey has made some efforts to differentiate himself from other Republicans in Congress (such as his gun control efforts), the freshman senator still has somewhat uphill odds given the Democratic tilt of the state.

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The race to challenge Toomey got off to an incredibly quick start with 2010 challenger and former Rep. Joe Sestak announcing his repeat candidacy very early in Toomey’s term. Sestak, who has never gotten along well with the party leadership, received two challengers: one in Katie McGinty, Tom Wolf’s former chief of staff, and Braddock Mayor John Fetterman. The party apparatus went hard for McGinty; she received endorsements from the governor, Sen. Casey, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (who also spent at least $400,000 on ads). In the end, the party’s efforts were not in vain as McGinty won, and relatively easily. She received roughly 150,000 more votes than Sestak and might have received even more had Fetterman not outperformed expectations by receiving almost 20 percent of the vote and winning Allegheny County. While Sestak did the best in some of the southeastern Pennsylvania counties around Philadelphia, those margins were nowhere near large enough to overcome McGivney’s convincing victory across the rest of the state. Now that the Governor and the Democratic Party have the candidate they want, the question remains: Can she defeat Toomey?

The Tea Party and Congress: With Clinton, Trump and McGinty winning by fairly large margins, one of the last races of the night to be called was the one for Representative of the Ninth District. This large district, covering parts of twelve counties in the southwestern and southcentral parts of the state, has been held by Rep. Shuster since 2001. Shuster, who is chairman of the House Transportation Committee and connected to the leadership, faced a tough challenge in 2014 from Art Halvorson and Travis Schooley. Expecting a repeat challenge from Halvorson, Shuster was prepared for another primary race this year. The election was a competitive one, and throughout the night it was unclear who would prevail.

In the end, Shuster scraped out a victory, winning by roughly one thousand votes out of more than 90,000 cast. While the margin was narrow, perhaps the most worrying part of the evening for Shuster was the fact that he lost both Blair County (his home county) and Fulton County, the two biggest counties in the district. While the incumbent has likely held on for one more term as the general election is unlikely to be competitive, the results from this race definitely lead this observer to wonder about where this leaves the incumbent for the future.

Why it’s time for Bernie Sanders to support Hillary Clinton

"[Sanders] has brought millions of young people into politics. According to CIRCLE, more youth have voted for Sanders than for Clinton and Trump combined," writes Christopher Beem in a recent Fortune article. Photo credit: Penn State

“[Sanders] has brought millions of young people into politics. According to CIRCLE, more youth have voted for Sanders than for Clinton and Trump combined,” writes Christopher Beem in a recent Fortune article. Photo credit: Penn State

Penn State McCourtney Institute for Democracy Managing Director Christopher Beem wrote an op-ed for Fortune Magazine this past weekend. Here’s a excerpt from his piece:

“Bernie Sanders has achieved astonishing things in the 2016 U.S. presidential race. He has single-handedly resurrected socialism in American political discourse. He has moved Clinton to the left on virtually every issue. Most importantly, he has brought millions of young people into politics. According to CIRCLE, more youth have voted for Sanders than for Clinton and Trump combined.

Christopher Beem

Christopher Beem

“But Bernie Sanders is not going to be the Democratic nominee for president. He isn’t going to quit or suspend his campaign. But barring the impossible, he is going to lose.

“What Sanders does between now and the end of the Philadelphia convention this summer will largely determine whether he is able to consolidate all his achievements. In fact, these next few weeks will decide whether his message and movement will continue to impact American politics.

“Even after Tuesday’s massive defeat in a string on Northeast states, Sanders insisted that ‘we are in this campaign to win.’ But he also gave his first hint of a different agenda. He said that he is out to ‘win every delegate we can,’ so that he can ‘fight for a progressive party platform’ at the Convention in July. Sanders could score some real victories here, including commitments to a $15 an hour U.S. minimum wage, universal health care, and tougher regulations for Wall Street.”


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