It’s hardly the year of the woman.
With Christine O’Donnell, Carly Fiorina, Sharron Angle and other conservative “Mama Grizzlies” sharing Sarah Palin’s spotlight, female political hopefuls seem poised to usher in a new wave this midterm election season.
The numbers, however, tell a different story. Though a record roster of women filed to run — 36 for U.S. Senate and 262 for the House — they did not win big in the primaries. And come Election Day on Tuesday, women are in danger of losing seats in Congress for the first time in three decades.
“Palin kind of swoops in, endorses a candidate and with all the press following her, it’s added visibility,” said Debbie Walsh, director of the nonpartisan Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. “More visibility in the marquee races ... masks the underlying story that numbers really aren’t better than they were.”
Tea Party-aligned candidates could cost women Senate seats, experts said.
Some of the high-profile GOP candidates in the running, such as Fiorina in California and Angle in Nevada, face tough Senate races. Others such as O’Donnell — the Delaware hopeful under fire for “witchcraft” admissions and not knowing the First Amendment — are long shots.
In the general election, female Democratic non-incumbents for Congress this year actually outnumber Republican ones, 41 to 37.
“Democrats aren’t interested in using their women running as branding tools,” sniped Jess McIntosh, of the Democratic-leaning EMILY’s List women’s group. “Our answer to Sarah Palin isn’t any one woman, but the democratic electorate as a whole.”
McIntosh and other liberals argued the more extremist Tea Party candidates actually do a disservice to women. “Opposing the right to chose, even in cases of rape or incest, is kind of a red flag,” McIntosh said.