Palin Brings New Emphasis to Female Politicians

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin shows her hand with the saying "I am the NRA" as she speaks during the NRA national convention in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, May 14, 2010. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Sarah Palin

As former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin continues to weigh in on the 2010 midterm elections, pundits and politicians are taking note of the emphasis she is putting on female candidates.

The 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate has endorsed a handful of female Republican candidates, such as Carly Fiorina, candidate for the California Republican Senate nomination; state Rep. Nikki Haley, who is running for governor in South Carolina; and Susana Martinez, who is seeking the GOP nomination in New Mexico governor's race.

Speaking at the Susan B. Anthony List Celebration of Life breakfast last week, Palin emphasized the power of conservative women, referring to some of them as "mama Grizzlies."

Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post contends that Palin is "building a pack of 'mama grizzlies' in the 2010 elections that could send a powerful political message if she decides to run for president in 2012."

"Palin's strong support for female candidates in 2010 could accrue to her benefit if she decides to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2012," Cillizza writes. "She would almost assuredly be the only prominent woman in the race, a significant position of strength if she could rally Republican women behind her the way that Hillary Rodham Clinton sought to inspire Democratic women in 2008 with the chance to cast their first vote for a female presidential candidate."

Tony Lee of the Atlantic said that Palin's performance at Friday's breakfast revealed "the makings of a potentially transcendent and transformational figure not only for the conservative movement but for American politics." Palin personifies the theme of the "frontier woman," Lee wrote.

Palin's focus on women creates a narrative that flies in the face of Democrats' attempts to portray the GOP as uncharitable to women in politics. Democrats are happy to point out that few of the women in Congress are Republicans: The party only accounts for 17 of the 78 female members of the House and four of the 17 women in the Senate.

Tim Heffernan at Esquire writes that Palin is not as powerful as some may think, but that by empowering female conservatives, she is positioning herself as "the de facto leader of a voting bloc the Republican Party lusts after."

However, Palin isn't just endorsing Republican women -- she's also targeting Democratic women, Politico reports. Five of the 17 House Democrats she is targeting for defeat this year are women.

An aide for the former governor told Politico that the number of women on the list was not intentional. Yet one of those women, Rep. Betsy Markey (D-Colo.), reportedly said Palin's list undermines the rapport among Congress' female members, both Democrat and Republican.

"It certainly doesn't help the cause of trying to get more women in Congress now, because I think as a whole I think we do a good job of working together, the women members," Markey told Politico. "What Sarah Palin is doing simply doesn't promote that idea of as women we all work together, whether you're a Democrat or a Republican."