Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Women Against Christine O'Donnell

cross-posted at dagblog

Monmouth University has a new poll on the Delaware Senate and Congressional races, and it's painful for the Republicans, especially for Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell. The top line: Chris Coons is leading O'Donnell 57% to 38%. O'Donnell has a grisly 58% disapproval rating with only 31% favorable, and Delaware voters consider her unqualified for the Senate by a margin of 57% to 35%. That's pretty painful.

Meanwhile, Coons is considered qualified (64% to 25%)and has a 50% approval rating with 33% disapproving. Those numbers aren't eye-poppingly good, and suggest that Coons may still be a relatively unknown commodity with voters, but O'Donnell's higher visibility is obviously not helping her.

What's most surprising though is the cross-tabs. Because for all the talk about the new wave of conservative Republican women, O'Donnell's numbers with female voters are abominably weak. She's not just losing women; she's losing because of women.

Only 22% of women polled view O'Donnell favorably. A landslide 68% view her unfavorably. Only 25% of women voters in Delaware consider O'Donnell qualified, and 67% do not. (Among men, O'Donnell has a -10% approval rating, and men come closer to an even split on her qualifications, with 44% calling her qualified and 48% not. Bad numbers, but not the horror show that the rest of O'Donnell's polling is.)

In fact, if only men held the franchise, this poll would give Christine O'Donnell a tiny, statistically meaningless lead: she's winning men 48% to 46%. It's women, splitting 68% for Coons and only 27% for O'Donnell, who turn the race into a 19-point blowout.

Some of this, of course, is about the fact that women skew Democratic and men Republican. But it also raises the question, again, of which voters the new crop of Palinite female characters candidates are designed to appeal to.

The Palin model, of which O'Donnell is only this year's most prominent update, is young, conservative, and attractive, but also typically weak on credentials and experience, openly anti-intellectual, and conspicuously reliant on faith and emotion in decision making. What's amazing about such candidates is that they so clearly fit misogynist stereotypes: strong hearts and weak heads, poor in book learning and logic but apt to be overwhelmed by the strong tides of their feminine feelings. I find the attempt to turn such a negative stereotype into a positive qualification for high office absolutely bizarre.

What's even more bizarre, but perhaps illuminating, is that men, or at least a plurality of men registered to vote, tend to view such female candidates as qualified, while other women do not. But it makes sense. If you take women seriously, it's obvious that most of these specific women are not serious in the least. Everybody knows dozens of women, just in their own zip code, who would make better senators than Christine O'Donnell would. It's only if you expect nothing of women that such women could meet your expectations.

If think of women as adult members of the human race, these candidacies are not simply jokes, but insults. But if you prefer to imagine women as passionate, feisty, emotional, and not terribly smart, Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell are just the gals for you.

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