Female candidates make history, waves in debate

Jun 29, 2019

Boston Globe | Stephanie Ebbert

There was no Lazio moment. No woman was dubbed “nasty” or “likable enough,” at least while the mics were still hot.

The first presidential debate to feature multiple female candidates was notable for its lack of gendered gaffes, as well as the breakout performances of Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris.

“It’s historic enough that we had six women over two nights of the debate,” said Betsy Fischer Martin, executive director of the Women & Politics Institute at the American University School of Public Affairs. “But to have, each night, one of the women rise to the top, I think was definitely something that was exciting.”

More women took the debate stage this week than had in all of American history, and their appearances gave viewers their first-ever array of alternatives in one election. Though some skeptics have misgivings about putting another female nominee up against President Trump after Hillary Clinton’s bruising experience in 2016, several female candidates beat back concerns, said Mary Anne Marsh, a Democratic strategist.

“Who can take on Donald Trump most effectively” is Democrats’ top priority, Marsh noted. “Out of these two debates, Warren and Harris are the two candidates who proved they could.”

Fischer Martin, whose institute is studying “Gender on the Ballot” in the 2020 election with the nonpartisan Barbara Lee Family Foundation, found Harris to be a commanding presence.

 

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