Buried among the predictions for a GOP Election Day tidal wave, there are stories about fears of a "wipeout" of women in the House and Senate. What's unsaid is that the fear is of a wipeout of Democratic women. Of 153 seats held by women in the House and Senate, two-thirds are now held by Democrats. Ironically, this has been a record-breaking year for the number of women filing to run for Congress.
Take a look at the numbers. In the House, a record 262 women ran in primaries this year, 134 Democrats and 128 Republicans. Compare that with 1992, the so-called Year of the Woman, when the numbers were smaller and more skewed: 140 Democrats and only 82 Republicans, for a total of 222. In the Senate this year, 36 women ran, 19 Democrats and 17 Republicans, breaking the 1992 record of 29 candidates, 22 being Democrats. Rather than a "wipeout," there are more women running than ever before, and more women running as Republicans.
The prospect of large numbers of incumbent Democratic women losing "should trouble anyone who believes that a Congress should be truly representative of the people it serves," Rep. Judy Chu, a California Democrat, recently told Politico. In a country where 10 million more women than men cast ballots in the 2008 election and with an electorate that poll after poll shows is firmly center-right, that's an odd thing for a politician to say about GOP women. Republican women running for office, including those endorsed by the Tea Party, are attracting more independent voters and arguably are "truly representative" of the people they want to serve, because those people are supporting fiscally responsible, limited government candidates this year.
Contrast that with the many female Democratic incumbents who are members of a Congress that is responsible—for the first time in U.S. history—for allowing the federal government to operate without a budget. That's something that shocks millions of women who have to meet a monthly budget for their families or manage expenses for their small businesses.
That may explain why so many female candidates come from private-sector backgrounds. Nikki Haley, now leading the South Carolina gubernatorial race, is trained as an accountant; Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman, both nearly tied in the California Senate and governor's races, are former CEOs, as is Linda McMahon, running slightly behind in the Connecticut Senate race. "They are not only a force in themselves; they represent an immense constituency that establishment feminism forgot—or disdained," Charles Krauthammer recently wrote in the Washington Post.
That constituency is turning out to vote for them. So far, the average Republican turnout in primaries this fall for Senate and governors' races exceeded the Democratic vote for the first time since 1930—by a whopping 4 million votes. According to American University's Center for the Study of the American Electorate, Democratic turnout was the lowest ever this year. No wonder the Democrats are putting Michelle Obama out on the campaign trail. They see a lot of the energy in this election surrounds women, especially on the right.
They also see that GOPers are raising more money than their Democratic opponents. Sharron Angle of Nevada, for example, raised $14 million over three months, compared to her opponent, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who raised only $2 million. Money follows momentum. [See which industries contribute to Reid.]
So does mudslinging. Remember "The Year of the Angry White Male"? The left is painting 2010 as the "Year of the Crazy Republican Lady." For example, the New York Times's Maureen Dowd likened Angle to "the inebriated lady in a country club bar, tossing off outrageous statements and daring anyone to call her on them." The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson recently asked why voters think "things will get better if some crazy, ignorant people are running the show," and then added that Christine O'Donnell's Delaware Senate race "isn't politics. It's insanity." And Gail Sheehy wrote in the Daily Beast that Whitman, Fiorina, and McMahon are "superrich, radical women [who] have earned their cutthroat reputations. They wrestle; they shove; they fire people willy-nilly."