Leading with Authority (2008)

New Developments

Here are three developments worth tracking in coming cycles:

Independent Expenditures used many women in their ads against women candidates. Women were also used to launch tougher charges in negative ads.

Several interviewees spoke about a candidate’s “performance” qualities. In a reality TV world, voters expect the person with the microphone to entertain them, regardless of whether the context is politics or fashion.

Reporters and some Party interviewees believe “showmanship” is an essential quality for political success and critiqued candidate performance in terms of the ability to produce a quick quip, or sharp wit. This tendency, if it continues, could be very treacherous for women who have worked hard to escape frivolous definitions and replace them with substantive, serious ones. This anecdotal data regarding the emergence of personality as a more powerful quality for voters coincides with survey and focus group research that show likeability to be a powerful predictor of success.

Opponents appear to be succeeding more than in past cycles at getting voters to see a woman candidate as the one who is responsible for the “negative campaigning.” This coincides with the fact that voters no longer accord women a moral advantage.