NB: Thanks to Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post’s The Fix for linking to this post. He’s got a great companion piece that looks at the question of which women are in the wings, but reviews mostly Democratic possibilities. I thought this post of mine compliments that with a look at GOP options. Please feel free to add more names in the comments. Oh, okay – and he’s a fellow Hoya.
During my appearance on CNN.com/LIVE yesterday, I mentioned that one of the side effects of soon-to-be-former Alaska Governor and GOP Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s decision to not run for re-election as governor and to resign as of July 26 is that, seeing that she has done it (run for her state’s highest office and then leave it with 18 months to go) and justified those decisions with a variety of rationales, who is to say that she has not opened a floodgate for potential female primary candidates for the GOP presidential and vice presidential nominations? Male candidates become “career politicians” all the time, from both parties, right? Why not the women? If we’re breaking down barriers, why not let the ambition women have be overt, just like the men’s, to keep climbing higher in politics?
This thought path got me thinking:
Could we see a female-female GOP ticket for president and vice president in 2012?
In addition to Palin’s decision-making leading me to wonder outloud about this possibility, there are the multiple groups that continue to support women who want to engage in a political life and even enter politics.
Then, there’s the galvanizing fact that since January 2009, our country has gone from having 41 42 male and nine eight female governors, to, by the end of July 2009, having 44 male and six female governors (Janet Napolitano and Kathleen Sebelius moved to cabinet positions in the Obama administration and that took us down to seven; Palin’s departure before the end of her first term leaves us with six).
[Update: Napolitano was replaced by a woman, so the remaining six will be:
1. Arizona – Jan Brewer
2. Connecticut – M. Jodi Rell
3. Hawaii – Linda Lingle
4. Michigan – Jennifer Granholm
5. North Carolina – Bev Perdue
6. Washington – Christine Gregoire
This Women’s eNews article explains how we got into this situation, but here’s the gist:
There are currently eight female governors, and one–Democrat Ruth Ann Minner of Delaware–is retiring, to be replaced by one of three male nominees.
The other seven gubernatorial races this year feature all-male slates.
This year’s field of female nominees is down from the record 10 that ran each year in 1994, 2002 and 2006, according to the Center for American Women and Politics.
That’s partly because there are only 11 governor’s races this year, far fewer than in midterm election years, which host more gubernatorial elections.
And then there’s the fact that the U.S. is only 72nd in the world in the number of women in its federal legislature (17% are women in the Congress overall; in the state legislatures, it’s about 24%). The top 10 countries on that list – all but the last two with 40% or more of its national legislature being female?
And, with Palin deciding she must go now, we will have barely over 5% 12% of our country’s governors being women by next month.
So, who have I thought of, literally just off the top of my head? The top three, and most seriously potential contenders for a presidential or vice-presidential run, based on the GOP’s Palin-as-VP benchmark for the GOP:
1. Kay Bailey Hutchison – Hutchison is running to win the GOP Texas governor nomination against incumbent Rick Perry. Whether or not she wins, why shouldn’t she be considered a serious presidential or VP candidate? Again, if Sarah can be…
2. Sarah Steelman – Steelman won big marks from some conservative segments for pushing a tiny pilot project that was composed of investment funds that were 100% devoid of companies that dealt with Iran. She was Missouri Treasurer for four years but lost in her bid to become governor in a narrow primary loss. Her Wikipedia entry says,
“Treasurer Steelman may run for the United States Senate against incumbent Claire McCaskill in 2012 or run for governor against incumbent Jay Nixon that year. She may also run for the open seat in 2010 due to Kit Bond‘s retirement.”
If Sarah can do it, why not…Sarah? Steelman that is.
3. Meg Whitman – Whitman is best known for her success and decade-long tenure as President and CEO of eBay, but she actually started out at P&G in Cincinnati, yeah Ohio. She spoke at the RNC’s convention last year and has raised several million dollars toward her CA gubernatorial primary (Arnold Schwarzenegger is term-limited). Wikipedia has a nice portraiture display of CA candidates and potential candidates, and Carly Fiorina is in the bunch under the GOP but might run against one of CA’s U.S. Senators, Barbara Boxer. Still, if we learned nothing from John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin and its impact on predicting political trajectories, we’ve learned not to count out anyone as a potential 2012 GOP female-female White House ticket.
Less likely but still “hey! who knows!”:
4. M. Jodi Rell – Connecticut governor in her sort of second term (she was preceded by Republican John Rowland who went off to federal prison in early 2004; Rell was then elected to the position in 11/06) with crazily high approval rates despite lackluster verbal support from natives (I know – I’ve been for a few days at a time this month, including a tweet-up with some very politically savvy local folks). Remember – Rell is one of the last GOP standing in New England – no small feat. Palin, on the other hand, might have been a different kind of Republican or conservative, but Alaska has a very firm history in electing Republicans. Not so the trend in New England, where Rell hangs on. With the GOP losing so much ground in New England, would Rell be a good VP choice in 2012?
5. Linda Lingle – I know very little about Hawaii and even less about Lingle. But hey, that was the state of knowledge many of us had about Sarah Palin exactly 12 months ago, so, again, I say, why not Lingle? She’s in her second term as governor of Hawaii. She even ran in 1998 and was defeated, and came back to run and win in 2002. (And, bonus – she is a Jewish Republican – we know how rare such individuals are in the federal government – think how great that could be on a female-female White House ticket for the GOP).
6. Olympia Snow or 7. Susan Collins – These two U.S. Senators from the great state of Maine, where I spent many years through my 20s, are total mavericks with a ton of various previous experiences. They crossed the aisle with the other two GOP female U.S. Senators and then GOP Senator Arlen Specter to vote for the Lilly Ledbetter Act, but they also supported President Obama’s stimulus package and got creamed for it. But, again, if the GOP can go for mavericks like McCain and Palin, and these two women have been in office far, far longer than Palin, again – why, not? And don’t forget: New England has few Republicans and the ones they do have? Seem to be mostly (though not all) women. Added bonus: Maine is at the forefront of campaign finance reform and publicly financed elections. Talk about fiscal conservatism and accountability.
8. Elizabeth Dole Dole has really done it all – been a cabinet secretary, a wife of a U.S. Senator, a U.S. Senator herself, the head of the American Red Cross, and much, much more (her experience extends back to the Johnson administration). But last year, she launched a very controverisal religion-themed ad against her Democratic opponent for the senate re-election and ended up losing by a significant margin. She would be the most senior in age president or vice-president in U.S. history if she were to win either seat in 2012.
Who else? No doubt there are other female GOP politicians around the country who, seeing the route Sarah Palin has taken, could easily be thinking, if she can do it, the way she’s doing it, why not me? Throw out convention, throw out the rules of succession, or whatever has been set up in the past in terms of waiting one’s turn or finishing out terms, for that matter (Palin departed second terms as city council member and mayor, and now is departing her first term as governor).