Bill Whalen: Politi-Cal

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California and the Gender Gap

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If you’re following the California gubernatorial and senatorial races, then odds are you already know about the latest poll by the Public Policy Institute of California.

It’s not such terrible news for Republican Carly Fiorina, who trails U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer by only five points (43%-38%) — a month ago, PPIC had Boxer up by seven (42%-35%).

 That’s a weak number for an incumbent — very weak considering Boxer heavy advertising the past month. If the Republican turnout is stronger than expected, while the Democratic ground game struggles, this race could go late into the night.

But it is bad new for Republican gubernatorial hopeful Meg Whitman, who’s now down by eight points to Attorney General Jerry Brown(44%-36%). A month ago, PPIC gave Whitman a 1-point lead.

I don’t want to waste your time deconstructing PPIC’s numbers. KQED’s always-insightful Jon Myers has a nice summary of the results, as do Cal Buzz co-editors Phil Troustine and Jerry Roberts. Meanwhile, over at Fox & Hounds, Joel Fox tells us not to give up on the good ship Whitman.

 I’ve read though the numbers. And, for all the attention given to Meg Whitman’s disconnect with Latino voters (she gets only 22% of that bloc, making for a 29% deficit), it’s another group that surprised me:

California women.

Whitman, seeking to be the first woman to serve as governor of the Golden State (Dianne Feinstein and Kathleen Brown tried and failed, respectively, in 1990 and 1994), received only 32% support from women, according to PPIC. Jerry Brown (Kathleen’s big brother) received 47%, making for a 15% gender gap . . . in the male candidate’s favor.

Let’s stop and do a little election math.

The Latino vote will be as much as one-fifth of the Election Day total (and that might be generous). So a 29% deficit among one-fifth of the electorate translates to roughly 6% of the overall vote.

Meanwhile, there’s the gender gap. Women make up one-half of the vote — maybe a little more in California. A 15% difference equals a 7.5% deficit in the total vote.

ok, so we’re arguing which is worse: down by 6% , or down by 7.5%. Kinda like debating if you’re happier having rickets or scurvy.

But the last time I checked, Margaret Cushing Whitman is not a Latina. But it does say “Sex: F” on her driver’s license. If it were me, I’d be more troubled by the poor performance with my peer group.

If Whitman ends up losing the election — and, in doing so, underperformed with women — you can count on about 180 million crackpots (present company included) positing 180 million different theories as to why Whitman, the $180 million candidate, failed.

Regarding the women’s vote, is the problem:

1) The Whitman campaign has so avoided gender politics that many women find it hard to identify or empathize with the candidate as a wife, mother and ultra-successful career woman;

2) Has the heavy focus (all the tv time) attacking Brown’s record and character ricocheted against the  Republican candidate, making her less likable;

3) Are California women less interested in a candidate who runs more on thematics (business approach to government; making Sacramento work) than an issue-specific approach to winning office;

4) Or is Whitman just the latest woman running for office who finds herself caught ‘twixt and ‘tween in terms of adding a “feminine mystique” to her campaign (see Clinton, Hillary, failed presidential run).

btw, one other note about PPIC and gender politics . . .

For all the media have tried to portray fellow tech-CEO’s Whitman and Fiorina as two peas in a Silicon Valley pods, they’re very different candidates. Whitman is centrist and cautious. Fiorina is conservative and feisty.

Yet, look at PPIC’s numbers: Whitman received 32% support among women; so did Fiorina. This, even though Fiorina is pro-life (Whitman is pro-choice) and further to the right on the environment (Fiorina supports Proposition 23, Whitman doesn’t).

That the two Republican women received the same percentage suggests, to me, that personality is much of a problem here as any specific issue.


Written by Bill Whalen

October 21, 2010 at 10:20 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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