Why Did Democratic Women Do So Poorly In 2006 House Elections?

by: Chris Bowers

Tue Jul 10, 2007 at 18:17

In 2006, of the thirty Republican-held House seats most heavily targeted by Democratic Party committees and allied progressive organizations, twenty-one of the Democratic nominees challenging for those seats were male, and nine of the Democratic nominees challenging for those seats were female. With the elections over, twenty of the twenty-one men in that group are now serving in Congress. However, Kirsten Gillibrand in NY-20 is the only woman in that group who is now serving in Congress. For some reason, of the top thirty Democratic House targets in 2006, Democratic men won 95% of the time, while Democratic women won only 11% of the time. (Updated: Gabrielle Giffords in AZ-08 might be an exception, but it should be noted that once the primary was over, Republicans didn't spend a dime to defend that seat. Instead, they conceded, at least on a national level. Either way, the statistical improbability holds...)

Simple randomness cannot explain this statistic away, as the odds of this happening purely by chance are, at least according to my calculations, about 1 in 33,000,000. (Updated: Commenter sdedeo estimates the odds at 1 in 75,000. Still, highly, highly unlikely to just be chance.) Also, I find it untenable to conclude that the average female Democratic candidate in the top thirty targeted races was weaker than the average top male Democratic candidate. For one thing, two of the biggest surprise Democratic victories on election night came in KS-02 with Nancy Boyda, and especially in NH-01 with Carol Shea-Porter. In other words, some of the longer shot Democratic women candidates did just fine. In fact, more, or at least as many (updated qualifier), Democratic women pulled off shocking wins on election night than they did top-tier victories. When one starts thinking of the close, frustrating House defeats in 2006, it is overwhelmingly populated by women: Francine Busby in the CA-50 special election; Blue Majority candidates Linda Stender (NJ-07) and Darcy Burner (WA-08); local Philadelphia favorite Lois Murphy in PA-06; Rahm Emanuel’s favorite, Tammy Duckworth, in IL-06; not to mention Heather Wilson Patricia Madrid in NM-01, Mary Jo Kilroy in OH-15, Tessa Hafen in NV-03, Angie Paccione in CO-04, Diane Farrell in CT-04; and of course Christine Jennings in the stolen FL-13 election. Further, there were the frustrating primary losses of Donna Edwards in MD-04 and Christine Cegelis in IL-06 (Update: Vic Wulsin in OH-02 was another, extremely close loss in a district that the netroots supported big-time, even if Wulsin herself didn't receive that support directly.).

This is not a chance occurrence. Instead, it can only point to a fundamental, structural problem in the way virtually the entire progressive ecosystem promotes top Democratic women candidates. Since the election, I have heard numerous possible explanations for these defeats. Here are just some of them:
  • The election turned on Iraq, and the “fighting Dem” narrative relied heavily upon veteran Democrats, who skew male. This also connects to inherently sexist views in the national electorate about gender roles and national security.
  • Democratic women candidates in suburban districts intrinsically seem soft on immigration, and thus needed to outflank Republicans from the right on the issue. (Unfortunately, I’m not kidding about this one. Multiple inside sources have confirmed to me that Rahm Emanuel himself promotes this idea.)
  • As the nation’s largest PAC, EMILY’s List offers a second layer of outside control—at least the level of control instituted by the DCCC—over the campaigns of Democratic women running for heavily targeted Republican seats. Women candidates are thus even less able to tailor their message to their district—and to themselves—then male Democratic candidates.
The second idea is just so utterly unsupportable, not to mention potentially destructive to the development of the Democratic coalition into a long-term governing majority, that I won’t dignify it with any further comment. However, while I doubt that any one explanation will provide the answer, I think both #1 and #3 offer promising avenues of investigation. Is the Democratic narrative on Iraq not helpful for Democratic women candidates? Is EMILY’s List as controlling as the DCCC when it comes to forcing campaigns to accept certain messages and staffers, or else lose both the funding and the credibility that comes with being endorsed by EMILY’s List? Is there some other explanation that I haven’t mentioned here?

I would like to know what you think, because this question needs an answer before the 2008 cycle for House elections heats up any further. We simply cannot allow our top women candidates suffer the same fate in 2008 that they suffered in 2006. Something is very wrong in the way we are promoting women candidates, and it needs to be fixed ASAP.

Right to respond on this post: Rahm Emanuel, EMILY’s List
Chris Bowers :: Why Did Democratic Women Do So Poorly In 2006 House Elections?

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How were the DCCC dollars distributed? (0.00 / 0)
Did these women receive less money, less early money, or less institutional support from the DCCC when compared with the Democratic males who won?

Busby received a lot of money from somewhere, but that was a very red district in a special election.

Duckworth received a lot of DCCC money, but in the process squashed the local grassroots energy of the Cegelis machine.

Lois Murphy received a lot of DCCC money, but she...  I have no idea?

What is the current ratio of male to female reps in the House?  Something like 5:1?  Considering the late entry of Donna Edwards, the unfortunate meddling of the DCCC in the IL-6 campaign, and the extremely close squeakers of Wilson and Ferrel, perhaps this is simply all too normal in US, sexist politics?  Not that that should discourage us from working to change that...

Kicking it in the NY-25.

also, Cook PVIs? (0.00 / 0)
were the women running in harder districts than the men? I know you said these were the top targeted districts, but, for example (even though you left it off the list), MN-06 proved just a little too conservative for Patty Wetterling to knock off Michelle Bachmann.

[ Parent ]
Wetterling was a lousy candidate (0.00 / 0)
MN-06 wasn't too conservative - Wetterling wasn't a strong enough candidate. Wetterling came close to knocking off Mark Kennedy in 2006 and then set her sights on the Senate seat now held by Amy Klobuchar. When I saw Klobuchar and Wetterling side-by-side in 2005, Klobuchar was fantastic and Wetterling was just horrible. I mean, I literally had to leave the room during Wetterling's speech it was so bad.

The shame of it is that there was a great MN-05 Dem, El Tinklenburg, running before Wetterling bailed on the Senate race and jumped back into the Congressional. He was way better on the stump than Wetterling - and I would not be at all surprised if he had been able to beat Bachmann. Alas, Wetterling had great name recognition, and primary voters placed their bets on her.

[ Parent ]
Have I sent you that data? (0.00 / 0)
I think it was you I tried a few months back to send the PVi and finance data for Red to Blue in 2006.  I have the spreadsheet still if anyone is interested--it has the total DCCC dollars each R2B candidate received, the percentage of total campaign fundds those dollars represented, Cook PVI for each district, and a section doing a similar analysis for each of the R2B primaries (like IL-06, CA-11 and FL-13, among others). 

If anyone else wants the data, I can send it as a Vista Excel or a 97-2005 Excel document.  Just email me at gerbilsbite (at) yahoo (dot) com and I'll forward it to you (I used it for my thesis analyzing R2B, and I'd be happy to include a copy of that as well if anyone's interested).

Yeah I blog.

[ Parent ]
Thank You! (0.00 / 0)
You've asked a really important question. I think of myself as a feminist, and yet I'll confess I've been so happy about picking up seats I hadn't noticed this definite skew.

I'll bet I'm not the only prog female who hasn't done the race by race breakdown, but will thank you for bringing it to our attention in time to make sure it doesn't happen again.

This deserves to be given more exposure. Think I'll send the link to TheNation....

Hasta la democracia, Peach McD in Durham NC

Claire McCaskill and Amy Klobuchar (0.00 / 0)
both won Senate races so I don't think any of the above apply.

In House races it's crucial to exploit the personal scandals of your opponent. Kirsten Gillibrand was willing to do that while Francine Busby was not.

Is that a possible hypothesis?

Emily's List AWOL (0.00 / 0)
On a related note to your #3, Chris, Emily's List did not support Donna Edwards at all in 2006--a tragic mistake that cost her an upset victory.  Nor have they endorsed her so far this year--perhaps that is a situation that the new OpenLeft (kudos!) can help remedy.

It is very possible that many of these women won... (0.00 / 0)
...and it just wasn't reported that way.

...The great question in the election protection community is how did the Dems win at all?

...It would seem that the Republicans stole left and right but that the wave was just too great to overcome and they ended up not being able to steal enough votes to retain power.

...We all new that Karl Rove had done "the math" and was predicting a hold on both chambers.

...So Why Did The Republicans Lose?

It will no doubt be objected that if such substantial manipulation of the vote counts is possible, why would it stop short of bringing about a general electoral victory? While we would naturally like to credit the heightened scrutiny engendered by the untiring efforts of election integrity groups, an awakening media, and a more informed and vigilant public; an alternative, more chilling, explanation has been suggested--simply that the mechanics of manipulation (software modules, primarily; see Appendix 2) had to be deployed before late-breaking developments12 greatly expanded the gap that such manipulation would have been calibrated to cover.

...check it out

"When the going gets Weird ... the Weird turn Pro" - Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

Don't forget media bias. (4.00 / 3)
Gilda Reed (running for La-01) has a diary at Big Orange discussing how, while she's the only candidate currently registered with the FEC, she can't get the Times Picayune to even acknowledge her candidacy.

Yesterday's Metro section on page B-7 of The Times-Picayune ran a half-page editorial telling of 5 possible Republican contenders for Jindal's District 1 House seat.  No mention was made of the only bona-fide candidate officially registered with the FEC---me.

In addition to the internal Dem issues you mention, the external issue of gender bias in news organizations' coverage of these races would certainly be worth analyzing.

Maybe they should have (0.00 / 0)
Posed in front of a tractor.  You bloggers really loved that photo.

ummm -- you need to fix your story (4.00 / 1)
Heather Wilson is the Republican incumbent who was reelected in NM-01.  You meant Patricia Madrid, her Democratic opponent who lost the race when she froze - literally - on a question about taxes, and Wilson was able to use that clip over and over.

If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy.

Patricia Madrid (0.00 / 0)
Seemed like a good fit for the district, but she did not do as welkl in the debates, and Heather Wilson is very articulate.  Still, it was very close against a 3-term incumbent, I believe, and it was one of the mopst heavily financed by the Dems.

I think each race is different.  Kirsten Gillebrand was very aggressive and it paid off.  Maybe some of the others weren't, such as Lois Murphy and Diane Farrell, both of whom were running for the second time.

In the races that were on everyone's radar, like CT-04, PA-06 and NM-01, the incumbents were mostly primed and most did well enough to win.  Nancy Boyda in KS and Carol Shea-Porter (like Paul Hodes) were not supposed to win, but caught their opponents unawares.  That's what happens in a wave election.  Boyda in particular reportedly ran her own race her own way, as did Shea-Porter (and Paul Hodes).  Mayber some of the other women weren;t aggressive enough in telling the DC consultants to shove it, that they understood their districts better,

Angie Paccione had an uphill race against Marilyn Musgrave in CO-04.  Personality-wise she was not Francine Busby (much more populist) but my impression is that it was a pretty R district. 

I think it was two things--(1) the blogosphere and the DCCC were infatuated with veterans and gave the more marginal women less attention.  But many of the women who lost (2) were also not aggressive enough in insisting on having the campaign be about the war and in being tailored to their districts, and maybe not aggressive enough in going hard against their opponents. 

Note that several GOP women also lost--Nancy Johnson in CT-05, and Melissa Hart in PA-03, for example.  Both counted on incumbency and underestimated their (male) opponents.

It wasn't money, I don't think, because NM-01, CT-04 and PA-06 were very heavily financed. 

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
CT-04 was a special case (0.00 / 0)
It's hard to shed tears for Diane Farrell.  She refused to coordinate campaign events, staff, or canvassing with the Democratic Senate nominee (Lamont) or gubernatorial nominee (DeStefano).  Lay Democrats were well aware of this-- they received twice as many phone calls and lit drops because of it.  It reinforced the feeling of there being a split in the Democratic party, where as if Leiberman were the only one running an independent office it would have been easier to make the case that he was simply not a Democrat.  "But Diane's a Democrat, and she's not running with the Dems either... does that mean the party is now run by dirty hippies??"

We'll get this seat in the next four years, when someone runs who isn't afraid to attack Shays for his failures from 2000-2006 as the goddamn Chair of the House Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relationships. 

[ Parent ]
I've had a theory (4.00 / 3)
It's not the "fighting Dems" thing specifically, but that more generally, these women campaigned on issues other than the war, but more general notions of accountability, budgeting and "values".  Indeed, Lois Murphy '06 ran the same campaign as the one she did in '04, all vague and fuzzy and with intimations of yeast infections in her tv ads, with the same result.

Women who ran hard on the war as an issue did better.

Same thought... (0.00 / 0)
I don't know why they did it -- consultants, EMILY's List, the D-Trip... the motive doesn't matter to me. But I have to say that this is the exact same thing that concerned me. So many of these races, from the little I observed, were not principally focused on the Iraq War, but rather looked and felt like they were right out of the old Democratic Female Campaign Playbook.

2006 was a year for strong campaigns with strong messages. Strong Democrats were successful. Soft focus fuzziness was not going to cut it. And it didn't.

[ Parent ]
Furthermore, (0.00 / 0)
suppose Dem women are generally perceived as strong on, and also are more likely to choose to run on, domestic issues: healthcare, education, corruption.  And suppose men are more likely to be perceived as credible on, and therefore also more likely to run on, security issues.

By the fall of 2006, the election was a referendum on the war (and corruption).  It was a security election, except with the usual GOP dumbasses being dumped in favor of more "smart and tough" Democrats.  Female candidates who adhere to the above pattern would find themselves disconnected from that zeitgeist, trying to run the kind of campaign Adam B was describing, even though the electorate was looking for something different -- specifically, the "smart and tough" case that guys like Joe Sestak were making.

And, recruiting for these races, especially DCCC-organized recruiting, took place months earlier, when the DCCC expected the zeitgeist to be very different than it was.  Many of the people the DCCC recruited were not prepared to make strong security arguments, and while there might have been more women who could have made those arguments, they weren't recruited.  Instead, the DCCC recruited "standard model" strong-on-domestic-issues Dem women, which is why so many of them were unprepared for the electorate's mood in the fall.

Concrete examples: Carol Shea-Porter ran hard on the war.  So did Nancy Boyda, apparently.  Judging from this thread, Diane Farrell, Lois Murphy, and Darcy Burner did not.  Patsy Madrid is a good case: she was up against another woman who appeared, by experience and temperament, very strong on security issues.  If we had been running a Heather Wilson type candidate in almost any of these races, this theory would predict that she'd win, because she'd be running a security campaign when that was what the zeitgeist demanded.  However, in most cases we weren't running Heather Wilsons.

Also, the way to find more evidence for or against any theory is to broaden the pool of races we're looking at.  Instead of asking who won and who lost, it would be more helpful to ask who outperformed expectations, and who did not.  For instance, Angie Paccione probably outperformed expectations, as did Vic Wulsin, Christine Jennings, Tessa Hafen, and Donna Edwards.  Meanwhile Diane Farrell, Lois Murphy, and Patsy Madrid definitely did not.  So in addition to the unexpected-win group, we also have the strong-loss group to look at now.  What did they do differently from the unexpected-loss crowd?

[ Parent ]
That's an interesting take (0.00 / 0)
That seems plausible, though I never crunched that data exactly.  I would point out that in every instance where DCCC endorsed a candidate during a primary (including Duckworth, Hafen, and Jennings), they endorsed the candidate with the more 'moderate' position on Iraq (or at least the one perceived as such--there was a period where Jennings was endorsing the Murtha plan and her opponent wanted permanent bases, but then her opposition changed positions midsummer).  In the two instances where the candidate they endorsed lost to another candidate (McNerney and Shea-Porter), both candidates were stronger on Iraq than the DCCC endorsee, and, tellingly, both won their November elections.

If nothing else, that should serve as a cautionary tale about thinking anyone can determine "electability" so far out from an election.

Yeah I blog.

[ Parent ]
doing the math (0.00 / 0)
So, the hypothesis that on average female Democratic candidates had the same chance of winning as male Democratic candidates, the chances of the final make-up that (or even more) tilted are 1 in 75,000 by my calculation -- ((21/30)*(20/29)*...*(2/11)*(9/10))*21, etc.. It's still a statistical certainty that there's some pattern here.

The actual ratio is staggering; men in races as you note nearly 9 times easier to win. The sample is small, though, so statistics are hard to do; as far as I can tell, at 95% confidence, male Democratic candidates were in races that they were more than 3.3x liklier to win than the women, still an impressive tilt, and still something that needs to be explained.

Ah, but what of endogeneity? (0.00 / 0)
In some prominent instances, like IL-06 and FL-13, the only candidates were women.  Both of those were marginal districts without incumbent Republicans to run against.  The incumbency factor might be more important than the gender factor.  Worth reviewing my data for, though (if my crappy HP ever lets me open Office again, that is...)

Yeah I blog.

[ Parent ]
Interesting question. . . (0.00 / 0)
I think we need more data to figure this out, though.  How many women challengers won v. lost in the general election?  In other words, is this an anecdotal or statistical variation? 

Another factor that could have lead to the problem is the inverse of Emily's List -- in other words, did the involvement of Emily's List lead to an inferior candidate winning the primary?  Certainly, that seems to be the case with Tammy Duckworth and the DCCC. 

Busby, I think, was an anomaly.  She ran in a heavily red district, and the only reason she had a chance was due to Duke's resignation.  However, unlike Foley and Delay, he resigned long enough before the 2006 general for the GOP to have a honest-to-goodness election. 

Either way, this post is the kind of thing I was hoping you'd continue with on the new site.  Good job!

I don't think #1 flies either (4.00 / 2)
Duckworth was the one female vet on the list, was supported heavily by the establishment, had a compelling story of her own... and lost.

As a sample of 1 that is only anecdotal but add to it the fact that the "Fighting Dems" themselves did terribly. If "Fighting Dems" had won across the board then this one might make more sense but that simply is not the case.

Adams point about running on issues other than the war or emphasizing the war makes more sense to me.

Kirsten Gillibrand did not run on the war on purpose. She was left with no choice however and handled it well. I think she received advice to stay away from it if she could but when confronted with the issue she did a great job of tackling it head on regardless of what angle the questioner was coming at her from. This worked.

However, the campaign really came down to her opponent's lack of quality and the republican record as a whole. This is not to take away from Kirsten because she ran a fantastic campaign and handled herself extremely well. Everyone that met her came away extremely impressed.

But it came down as a negative referendum on the republican scumbag incumbent and his support for a failing and flailing republican administration and agenda.

I'd like to see a breakdown of where the support went. Who did EMILY's list back and with how much? Who did the DCCC back and with how much? Who did other organizations back and with how much? And how much did they emphasize their campaigns?

Contrast it with the same info regarding the male campaigns? Were the women supported to the same level as the men? Were they considered longer shots from the get-go? You point to two women winning long-shot campaigns. Why were they considered long-shots? How did their campaigns differ from the ones considered top tier?

I suspect in all of this we will see the same sort of institutional bigotry women are up against in every other facet of life.

I was about to ask... what about minorities? But of course, we have legislation that makes it a requirement not to squeeze them out. No such protections for women.



Good questions to ask (4.00 / 1)
I know that Judy Feder never saw a dime from DCCC, but she was a late-breaking race.  Jennings in FL-13 only got about 1.3% of her funds from DCCC, one of the lowest proportions in '06 (but she was also in the msot expensive race ever, so that might affect the percentage, and I haven't adjusted those figures yet).  But Kissell only got $31.00, and I think Duckworth got more total dollars from DCCC than anyone else who'd never been in Congress, so I'd want to play with the numbers a bit more before concluding anything about gender and funding.

Yeah I blog.

[ Parent ]
Can't say, but.... (0.00 / 0)
I certainly can't explain the huge discrepancy, but I do think it is generally useful for any person running for office to have a personal narrative that is counter to the general narrative.  For example, I don't believe Republicans gain much for being veterans or war heroes, but the Fighting Dems can break through the image of weakness.  Conversely, it Republican women have the advantage of appearing more understanding and less harsh than one expects from a Republican.

I fear that Democratic woman may only add to the 'mommy party' image, which hurts in the general election.

Did i miss something? (0.00 / 0)
Probably, but I was thinking of Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson Az. 

Not Top 30 (0.00 / 0)
That race was immediately conceded once the primary was over. Even Republicans new that the wingnut who won their nod had no chance, and immediately pulled out...

[ Parent ]
Republican Women? (2.67 / 3)
Are Republican women doing better?

I'm not being snarky, but I wonder if we looked at the data on women generally we'd see it across the board.

I feel that women are judged on an entirely different set of criteria, over and above their political abilities.

Are they attractive?  Are their voices too hard, soft, modulated, unmodualted, etc?  Do they dress well?  Do they dress expensively?  Do they dress TOO expensively?  Do they wear make-up?  Do they wear "good" make-up (some of you know EXACTLY what I mean ;))?  Do they have good ankles, thick ankles, thunder thighs?  Pants or skirts?  I mean women deal with the Edwards' haircut issue every day!

I have an extreme aversion to Katherine Harris and Ann Coulter, but just read blog posts about them and their appearances.  If any thought is given to their thoughts and political positions, it gets short shrift and we're on to the Coulter Adam's apple and Harris' breasts.

Jeez, I didn't mean to rant, but I think the Establishment still see men as a "surer thing" than a woman.  And the perceptions are probably just as poor on the voters' part as well.  Read anti-Hillary (another candidate I'm not too fond of) screed and it always comes down to her "stupid hair" or ugly pant suits.

Send Bush to The Hague in 2009!

Of course, in fairness... (0.00 / 0)
...Harris announced her candidacy standing in quarter-profile and repeatedly wore spandex shirts while riding horseback in parades around Florida.  I saw it once--it scared me.

Oh, and there's the infamous Harris interview where she kept making passes at the young male reporter, if anyone remembers that story.

I mean, she didn't have much in the way of ideas to run on, so kudos for using what she had, I suppose.

But I do see where you're coming from, in that politics seems to be increasingly superficial these days.  Hell, the only real lesson the John Edwards Haircut Fiasco should teach us is that there's something wrong with a system that puts such a high premium on appearance that a candidate thinks they need hundred-plus dollar haircuts (I've worked for women candidates in the past who would wake up at 3:30 AM in order to get to a four o'clock hair appointment, because appearance was that important to them--that's saying more about how we choose our representatives than about any personal vanity, in my opinion).

Yeah I blog.

[ Parent ]
What if it's the reverse of what we're thinking? (0.00 / 0)
I would NEVER argue that female candidates have it easier, or women have reached and passed the parity line in politics, or something rediculous of that nature. 

But since I have yet to see any numbers showing female candidates up and down ballot across the country (GOP & DEM) doing worse in '06 - or anything like that - I have to wonder, perhaps the problem isn't female candidates, it's the female candidates that the DTrip supported. 

I mean, NARAL, EMILY'S LIST, etc, have become pretty powerful.  It can really ruin someone's career in Washington (especially and insider like Rahm) to be on their bad sides.  And, before Lamont, the DCCC was all about "soft" issues like drug care, etc, that women were supposed to be "better at." 

So perhaps the DCCC promoted the wrong women into their top 30 targets, and promoted women who didn't deserve to be there based on a truly objective look at the playing field in order to either
a) pay favors to powerful lobbies
b) try to help get more women in office or
c) play to what Rahm thought was going to be an election revolving around issues women are "better at." 

This would explain
a) why so many of the women that were supposed to win didn't and
b) why the outside-shot women (like Boyda who ran talking about the war) did win. 

It would also make a lot more sense than some of the other theories floating out there (like #1) which seem a little too pop-psychology, and not grounded in verifiable data. 

For both women and men... (0.00 / 0)
...in every instance where DCCC endorsed a Primary candidate (Shuler, Hafen, Duckworth, Craig, Filson, Jennings, Perlmutter and the one that I'm forgetting right now), the DCCC-backed candidate was to the right of the non-backed candidate on Iraq.  Now, in some instances, like Shuler, the non-backed candidate was a convicted felon, so there are other factors at play.  In others, like Jennings and Duckworth and Filson, DCCC went with the candidate who hadn't been the nominee that lost in 2004.

Yeah I blog.

[ Parent ]
EMILY's List Helps (4.00 / 1)
I think the 3rd hypothesis is incorrect, at least as far as far our experience in the OH-02 race is concerned. Vic Wulsin was going to be outraised and outspent quite dramatically if it hadn't been for EMILY's List. They made about $250,000 in independent expenditures on our behalf and solicited perhaps another $100,000 in direct contributions. They did give us a campaign consultant for the final month of the campaign, but she was excellent -- she understood that we needed to tailor our message to our very conservative district and she helped us do that better. By no means did EMILY's list put bad outside control over us. I only wish they had gotten involved in July when our first poll showed us tied, rather than in October.

In fact, I think that the existence of EMILY's List as a powerful group that only supports women Democrats and not men should be a factor that increases the proportion of women Dems who win, not decreases it. By giving money and credibility (which is crucial when trying to break through the viability barrier with potential donors during call time), EMILY's List is a powerful advantage, not disadvantage, for Dem women.

I think option 1 comes closer to the truth -- in an election about war, women may suffer from the stereotypes that voters have about national defense, toughness, and masculinity. We were in a woman-woman race against Schmidt, and so that fact probably didn't play as much for us, although as a Democrat and a woman, Vic may have had a particularly high hurdle to jump in rural/suburban southern Ohio when it came to credibility on national security issues.

Two things (4.00 / 1)
First if the macho war vet thing had that much oomph then Tammy Duckworth should have run away with that race. Depressing the grassroots by tromping on Christine was really really stupid. And it disproved the Fighting Dems meme, at least in this race.

As for Emily's List, I used to be a contributer. I stopped after the votes came in on the bankruptcy bill and several Emily's List candidates voted for it. Melissa Bean comes to mind. I then realized that I needed more benchmarks than just democratic pro-choice woman. I told them that on the phone at the time. They still keep sending me the mailings. And I got another phone call from them today and explained it all over again.

Emily's List is great for raising money for one kind of candidate with one profile and many folks will gladly write checks knowing that Choice is in such a precarious position. But just because you are pro-choice doesn't mean you are progressive. I have to hope that we are coming up with better metrics and better standards through places like this and FDL and Howie Klein where we get the full scoop on progressive candidates. Then we need to find more and better ways of educating the electorate so that we can spread the progressive gospel. I for one am tired of republican light and the DLC.

[ Parent ]
A Case in Support of RevDeb (4.00 / 1)
Here in WI-08, we had a three-way primary with three very different campaign structures.
1. Jamie Wall. At one point he was among the top 10 fundraisers on ActBlue. I know he worked his tail off making personal connections and getting small donors to contribute to his campaign. He came in (a surprise to those outside the area) second place in the primary. Good field organization, but just short people.
2. Steve Kagen. Primarily self-funded. "Dr. Millionaire" to Karl Rove. He won the primary and the general election. He had a great field organization.
3. Nancy Nusbaum. Emily's List darling with long-standing political connections to the WI Dem leadership. Surprisingly poorly managed in the field, and IMO, fits exactly into the description of RevDeb's description. She looked like she wasn't really running her own campaign, that many of her words were not her own.

I really liked all three candidates, both as individuals and politically. Having appeared at campaign stops with all three during my campaigning, it was quite clear Kagen's money and organization made the early difference in the race and he never looked back.

WRT the prior comment about female Senate candidates winning - House and Senate races are vastly different beasts.

[ Parent ]
I always wondered (0.00 / 0)
if the tardiness of Emily's list in the Ohio 2nd had anything to do with the fact that Vic was running against another woman.

[ Parent ]
Late support (0.00 / 0)
I'm pretty sure it had more to do with perceived viability than who our opponent was. There is basically no more anti-abortion rights Representative than Schmidt (she's head of all sorts of pro-life local groups) and EMILY's List definitely hates her.

[ Parent ]
My guess is PVI/registration advantage (0.00 / 0)
EMILY's List was probably waiting to see if Wulsin could keep the race tight in such a Republican seat (at least on the numbers).

Yeah I blog.

[ Parent ]
Macro Messaging (4.00 / 2)
I agree that #1 and #3 both make sense intuitively, but I'd like to add something that I think connects with them in a way.

I think there was a general confusion in the Democratic establishment about how to run.  We saw this most generally in the desire to cultivate a centrist appeal, just at the time that the electorate was moving left.  And we saw how it worked when folks ignored it.

Democrats won anyway, but they could have won another 10-20 seats if they had had real clarity about how to run.  I am not advocating a one-size-fits-all approach.  But I am advocating an awareness that (1) it pays dividends to run as a strong alternative, rather than simply as "Not Extreme"/"Not Insane"/"Not Responsible," and (2) there are different ways to make that point in different places, so you don't have to lead with your chin in doing so.

It's my hypothesis that women suffered more from this lack of a proper strategy simply because the GWOT/undercurrent of fear made it harder for them because of their gender.

Obviously this doesn't explain everything. I just put it forth as another contributing factor.  Something that made it harder for women.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

Good points (0.00 / 0)
This says much more articulately part of what I tried to say above.  Women who knew what they stood for and ran on that (particularly on the war) did pretty well and several won.  Women who were mushy or not good candidates (Patty Wetterling) didn't do so well.

Where money does come into it is the DCCC tendency not to back women like Vic Wulsin or Angie Paccione early on, when iot might have made a big differnece in a conservative distirct.  They were too cautious and preferred centrist, more "conventional" candidates like Patsy Madrid, who looked good on paper but got brain lock.

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
Your comment captures my impression also (4.00 / 1)
The "not extreme" campaign has been a hallmark of weak Democratic candidates ever since Reagan. Most of the women running for congress in 2006 did not make a very strong impression on me when I read about their positions on issues that were posted on their web sites. I made small contributions to dozens on congressional campaigns in 2006, and upon reviewing those, I found that I had rarely contributed to a woman candidate. Probably this is because, as a progressive, I was primary motivated by "firebrand" positions, that, as you point out, it may be easier for men to adopt.

Statistically, the interesting question is why women were so much more effective in 2006 at winning Democratic primaries than general elections. In primaries, there are a smaller number of voters who have the odd combination of above average interest, but may have put very little time into understanding the candidates. By the general election, there are more voters, and the distinctions between candidate has become much more emotionally charged. Does this different mindset effect a bias for or against women? Some structural factors like that must have affected the outcome in 2006.

ec=-8.50 soc=-8.41   (3,967 Watts)

[ Parent ]
The importance of timing (0.00 / 0)
You touched on another salient point: when were these decisions about support reached?

According to my research, it looks like candidates endorsed by DCCC (included on the Red to Blue list, that is) in the summer months (waves 2 and 3) were about twice as likely as those endorsed in waves 1 and 4 to win in November.  That seems to say that there's no way to determine which issues will be salient too far out from the election, and trying to run candidates who fit a certain mold might be self-defeating if the national mood shifts or if a critical event takes place.

For my money, I think each race should be taken individually, even in national elections like '06, and that no one model for a candidacy should be encouraged over any other until we're more certain about the dynamics of the race.

Yeah I blog.

[ Parent ]
Why Women Candidates Did Poorly in 2006 (4.00 / 3)
Could it possibly be that only women were willing to run in the most difficult races where they were facing popular Republican incumbents or opponents?

That a good point (0.00 / 0)
Just anecdotally, I have found that men are more strongly motivated by ambition and fear of failure. I would expect men to be both more aggressive in pursuing a "sure win" nomination, and much more risk averse when it comes to "up hill battle" in the general election.

ec=-8.50 soc=-8.41   (3,967 Watts)

[ Parent ]
I doubt it. (0.00 / 1)
Jim Webb, Chris Murphy, Dave Loebsack... there were plenty of men who won races no one thought they had a chance of winning.

[ Parent ]
I don't think so (0.00 / 0)
Jennings and Duckworth both immeditely spring to mind, since neither ran in districts with incumbent opposition, and Gillibrand unseated Sweeney.  But that's certainly worth looking into further.

Yeah I blog.

[ Parent ]
Maybe it's sexism. (0.00 / 0)
In the party, in the media, in the electorate. Sorry, I don't mean to point out the obvious, but it might be worth looking at whether sexism seemed to be a factor in things like resource distribution and media coverage (and response). Also, whether Republicans put more resources into defending those districts because it would be embarrassing to lose to a girl.

Actually with such a small sample I think its hard to say anything - even whether gender might really be masking a third variable - just ad hoc, Darcy Burner, Angie Paccione, and Diane Ferrell all came much closer to winning than anyone thought they would. Maybe women disproportionately ran in districts with more popular incumbents. That would be easy to look at.

Overall, I think it might be easier to go at these hypotheses one at a time and try to falsify them. If Emily's List is problematic in some way (I'm highly skeptical) candidates should do the same or worse when hey get assistance from Emily's List. Is there something specific that they did that you feel may have been controlling or problematic in some way? A particular policy or pressure? Number two seems silly to me too, but also possible to look at. Did anyone take/not take this advice? Is there any reason to believe immigration was a big issue in a bunch of these races (it doesn't really jump out at me in WA-08 or CT-04, but that might just be me). 

The first explanation is maybe the most interesting to me. For that one, I think its worth asking who that narrative works for and why. It seems tailor-made for rural-white-male-populist-types to me, but again, that's just a hunch. Is there any way to look at who won with that framing?

Perhaps women did better without Rahm Emanuel's support? (0.00 / 0)
Someone did an analysis after the election, comparing the netroots' candidates with Emanuel's candidates, and the netroots' candidates did better. [I loved Carol Shea-Porter's story!]

I don't know if the analysis broke it down by gender or not, but perhaps that additional piece could be factored in.

[I'll look for a link to the analysis I did see.]

It is also possible, as someone else suggested, that women were more likely to run in a race where they were less likely to win. That may explain Lois Murphy's loss. And she still came very close. In some cases, it may take more than one run to succeed, if only because of name recognition.

Can't leave Karl out of the equation, either, or the candidate in Florida who was contesting her loss because of malfunctioning voting machines. 

Shea-Porter was it (0.00 / 0)
Carol was the only female candidate to win her seat without DCCC support.  In fact, she was the only candidate period to win without at least being on the "Red to Blue" list (not counting Ciro in his late race).

Yeah I blog.

[ Parent ]
Ok, I want to talk about #2 for a second (0.00 / 0)
Democratic women candidates in suburban districts intrinsically seem soft on immigration, and thus needed to outflank Republicans from the right on the issue. (I'm not kidding about this one. In fact, multiple inside sources have confirmed to me that Rahm Emanuel himself promotes this idea)

Lets try this again: Rahm Emanuel thinks women candidates in suburban districts intrinsically seem soft on immigration and thus advised them to outflank Republicans from the right on the issue... This advice confused voters, prevented the female candidates from distinguising themselves from their opponent, and muddled the party brand.

Emily's List (0.00 / 0)
Maybe hanging it all on abortion has something to do with it. Is it possible that Americans think there are other more pressing issues?

Rahm Emmanuel (0.00 / 0)
Start with the money trail.  If any of these women candidates were not anointed by Rahm Emmanuel as Tammy Duckworth was, you can best believe they saw no money coming from the DCCC.

I think in the efforts of being polite, there's some fear in calling out the elephant in the room, people, and that is SEXISM.  Sure, Rahm anointed a few women; as long as they weren't going to be too progressive.  Which is why candidates like Donna Edwards and Christine Cegelis (whom Rahm campaigned against)didn't get the help they needed to beat the incumbents they are up against.

I don't buy the "women don't do well in the 'burbs" schtick, either.  Look no further than Ellen Taucher for that one, because she represents a very wealthy surburb in Northern California.  But then again, she's DLC Corporate, and a progressive might not play well in the burbs like a DLC Corporate type would.

I haven't had the time to flesh all of this out, but it might be interesting to do a study of some sort, which I will present offline, Chris.

Data (0.00 / 0)
Here's the races on which the D-Trip spent the most, according to the FEC:

GERLACH, JIM Against $2,978,486.14
ROSKAM, PETER Against $2,702,588.68
DAVIS, GEOFFREY C Against $2,694,690.28
PADGETT, JOY Against $2,423,842.16
SODREL, MICHAEL E. Against $2,317,049.38
SHAW, E CLAY JR Against $2,257,215.20
HOSTETTLER, JOHN NATHAN Against $2,157,094.90
REICHERT, DAVE Against $2,006,542.18
WILSON, HEATHER A. Against $1,994,378.34
WELDON, CURTIS W. Against $1,901,821.81
HAYWORTH, JD Against $1,872,768.58
SIMMONS, ROB Against $1,848,723.38
JOHNSON, NANCY L. Against $1,839,714.74
FITZPATRICK, MICHAEL G Against $1,694,800.77
SHAYS, CHRISTOPHER Against $1,604,278.98
PRYCE, DEBORAH D. Against $1,566,151.01
BILBRAY, BRIAN P Against $1,525,834.00
ODONNELL, RICK Against $1,483,209.73
MEIER, RAYMOND Against $1,416,951.97
WHALEN, MICHAEL LOUIS Against $1,247,831.20

[ Parent ]
Substantiates comments above (0.00 / 0)
They went for the "safe" candidates, the centrist women (and men) not for the quirkier and stronger women, the longer shots.  Had they come in strong for Angie Paccione, Vic Wulsin and a few others, they might have won.  The DCCC did well in places like indiana, where their centrists palyed well, but it left too mushy of an image in many suburban districts.

The DCCC (and Emily's List) need to be more flexible and more willing to take a chance in a district with a very unattractive incumbent, like Musgrave or Mean Jean Schmidt.  They also need to let candidates be themselves, and pick people with a clearer sense of why they are running.

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
Bilbray (0.00 / 0)
Noting, of course, that was almost all spent in the summer, not for November.

Yeah I blog.

[ Parent ]
Effect of primary electorate on candidate selection. (0.00 / 0)
The female skew of the Democratic primary electorate could have an effect here. A Democratic primary favors candidates who perform well with female voters.

If there were a bias in the general elecorate against "women's women" and/or "men's men" (in other words, a tendency for voters to choose candidates who could reach well across gender lines), the final results would skew toward what we saw in 2006. Because Democratic primaries would have given us candidates who were "women's women" and "women's men", we would have a group of women who shared a disadvantage and a group of men who shared an advantage.

I have no real data to back this up - it's just a possibility that occurred to me...


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