The women of the 2012 US presidential election

Sarah Palin may grab more headlines, but is there room for Michele Bachmann in the Republican primar

Sarah Palin, former Governor of Alaska and 2008 Republican nominee for Vice president, is a Tea Party conservative, Evangelical Christian, mother to five children and possible nominee for the Republican 2012 presidential candidate. Michele Bachmann, US representative from Minnesota, is also a Tea Party conservative, Evangelical Christian, mother to five children and possible nominee for the Republican 2012 presidential candidate. Each was the first woman to hold office in her state, and neither is afraid to push for other breakthroughs in the political world, no matter how controversial.

Sarah Palin was thrust into the spotlight following her VP nomination in 2008 and has since been one of the media's favourite topics, with a 95 per cent recognisability, according to the latest Gallup poll on the 2012 election. Michele Bachmann doesn't have the same name recognition, with only 60 per cent in the same poll - but perhaps this isn't necessarily a bad thing given the type of coverage Palin usually receives.

Gallup puts Palin's ballot support at 15, while Bachmann's is only at 5. However, the positive intensity scores, which reflect favourable public opinion, are at 14 for Palin and 21 for Bachmann.

But how will female voters respond to each of these women?

One thing is certain: female voters will be one of the biggest factors in the 2012 election.

In 2008, while male votes were split relatively evenly between Obama and McCain, women voted 56 per cent Democrat and 43 per cent Republican, sealing Obama's decisive victory. Female turnout was also higher than male figures, with 65.7 per cent of women and only 61.5 per cent of males voting, according to a Pew Research Centre poll.

With the 2012 election approaching, it seems the change women want may no longer be Obama. Surveys of the 2010 midterm elections revealed 49 per cent of female voters chose Republican congressional candidates compared to the 48 per cent who preferred Democrats. This is the first time in 30 years that Republican candidates received a majority of women's votes, according to the Washington Times.

"The explanation for that is really economic," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, new chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee told the Washington Post. "Women make so many of the economic decisions in households. And so the struggle economically is really borne by women."

Rep. Cynthia M. Lummis, Wyoming Republican, believes female voters take a longer-range view than men when they cast their vote.

"The candidate who will succeed with women in 2012 will be the candidate who appeals to the future of our country and economic stability," Lummis said. "It has less to do with political party than with the vision they paint."

If women no longer agree with Obama's plans for the future, they might be willing to take a look at the visions painted by other women.

According to a recent Pew Research Centre poll, 77 per cent of the general public says that it would not matter to them if the candidate was a woman, with 18 per cent of women more likely to support a women compared to the 10 per cent of men who said the same. This is a striking change in the attitude of women compared to feelings during Clinton's run in the 2008 Democratic primaries.

GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway told the Washington Post that many conservatives try to avoid identity politics based on sex and gender, and republican women haven't been prone to voting for women over men. However, she believes most of today's voters are beginning to gravitate towards candidates they can relate to on a personal level.

Matt Towery, Advantage Insider pollster and president, told Newsmax that current poll numbers for Palin or Bachmann must factor in women.

"As women voters get to know a woman candidate, the voters tend to migrate towards that candidate," Towery said. "The percentage of women voters leaning towards a woman candidate increases as you get deeper into the primaries."

If this probable female support becomes a reality, the choice between the strikingly similar women remains.

Some feel the comparison between the two women is unfair to Bachmann and borders sexism, according to a Washington Post female blogger. They don't believe Bachmann deserves to fall into the same stereotype that Palin has become subject to. They feel Bachman, an experienced lawyer and current office holder, is a more qualified candidate than the over-publicized Palin.

Still, most polls have Palin ahead of Bachmann. Real Clear Politics' most recent poll ranks Palin at 12.1 and Bachmann at 5.2.

Bachmann, however, seems closer to officially declaring her candidacy, and once the general public becomes more aware of her presence in this race, the polls could change. As Bachmann makes a name for herself outside of the Tea Party, Palin could lose some of her lustre.

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Commons Confidential: Dave's picnic with Dacre

Revenge is a dish best served cold from a wicker hamper.

Sulking David Cameron can’t forgive the Daily Mail editor, Paul Dacre, for his role in his downfall. The unrelenting hostility of the self-appointed voice of Middle England to the Remain cause felt pivotal to the defeat. So, what a glorious coincidence it was that they found themselves picnicking a couple of motors apart before England beat Scotland at Twickenham. My snout recalled Cameron studiously peering in the opposite direction. On Dacre’s face was the smile of an assassin. Revenge is a dish best served cold from a wicker hamper.

The good news is that since Jeremy Corbyn let Theresa May off the Budget hook at Prime Minister’s Questions, most of his MPs no longer hate him. The bad news is that many now openly express their pity. It is whispered that Corbyn’s office made it clear that he didn’t wish to sit next to Tony Blair at the unveiling of the Iraq and Afghanistan war memorial in London. His desire for distance was probably reciprocated, as Comrade Corbyn wanted Brigadier Blair to be charged with war crimes. Fighting old battles is easier than beating the Tories.

Brexit is a ticket to travel. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is lifting its three-trip cap on funded journeys to Europe for MPs. The idea of paying for as many cross-Channel visits as a politician can enjoy reminds me of Denis MacShane. Under the old limits, he ended up in the clink for fiddling accounts to fund his Continental missionary work. If the new rule was applied retrospectively, perhaps the former Labour minister should be entitled to get his seat back and compensation?

The word in Ukip is that Paul Nuttall, OBE VC KG – the ridiculed former Premier League professional footballer and England 1966 World Cup winner – has cold feet after his Stoke mauling about standing in a by-election in Leigh (assuming that Andy Burnham is elected mayor of Greater Manchester in May). The electorate already knows his Walter Mitty act too well.

A senior Labour MP, who demanded anonymity, revealed that she had received a letter after Leicester’s Keith Vaz paid men to entertain him. Vaz had posed as Jim the washing machine man. Why, asked the complainant, wasn’t this second job listed in the register of members’ interests? She’s avoiding writing a reply.

Years ago, this column unearthed and ridiculed the early journalism of George Osborne, who must be the least qualified newspaper editor in history. The cabinet lackey Ben “Selwyn” Gummer’s feeble intervention in the Osborne debate has put him on our radar. We are now watching him and will be reporting back. My snouts are already unearthing interesting information.

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 23 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump's permanent revolution