Iowa has not elected a woman in a statewide contest since 1990, one example of election trivia that floats to the surface every couple of years when political journalists look for hooks on which to hang narratives. Twenty-four years later, Iowa has a chance to end that streak, thanks to the emergence of Joni Ernst, who won the Republican nomination for US Senate and is currently leading Democratic nominee Bruce Braley in the polls. With one midterm focus on gender demographics, the 24-year drought in Iowa of statewide wins for women makes for a pretty decent frame to take a deep dive into the Ernst campaign.
Except that’s not what Politico’s Dave Price did. Instead, he used that frame to take a deep dive into someone who’s not on the ballot at all this year. Instead, Price asks the question: “Can Hillary Overcome Iowa’s Woman Problem?”
Twenty years after Campbell’s failed bid, no Iowa woman has yet been elected governor. Or to Congress. Or won an Iowa Caucus. None.
Flash forward to late 2013. That’s when Campbell started having serious conversations with friends. “People kept coming up to me and said Hillary has to run,” Campbell says. …
Campbell says Americans were ready for history then. And they are ready for history again. “It’s time … we need to do it historically to show the world that women can do this,” Campbell says.
Enter “Ready for Hillary.” Campbell is one of its proudest volunteers. No fancy title, she says: “If they want me to go somewhere and talk to somebody, I do it.”
Actually, it’s worth pointing out that Iowa’s Lieutenant Governor is Kim Reynolds, who won that statewide office in 2010. Like many other states, the office is elected on a combined ticket with the governor, and Reynolds won on Terry Branstad’s gubernatorial comeback effort. She did, however, still win a statewide election, so technically the streak is broken anyway.
But if the test is a single office victory, then Iowans don’t have to wait. Ernst is on the ballot now, not playing will-she-won’t-she games about 2016, having won a statewide Republican primary campaign earlier this year. If the focus of this article is “Iowa’s woman problem,” as Politico and Price frame it, why not note that Ernst may solve it long before Hillary Clinton makes up her mind to run for President?
It’s not as if Price ignores Ernst entirely, but the first mention of a woman who’s actually running for office comes in the thirty-seventh paragraph of Price’s article. In fact, although Ernst’s gender can be assumed from the spelling of her name, Price never mentions Ernst’s gender until the 44th paragraph, when Price notes that three women are running for federal office in Iowa in this cycle — and never even names the other two. So much for Iowa’s “woman problem.”
And in a piece of rather telling irony, Price notes that Campbell and the rest of Team Hillary are so concerned about Iowa’s “woman problem” that they’re actively campaigning to defeat the one woman running for statewide office this cycle:
So is Ready for Hillary. Eadon says the group has given $30,000 to the Iowa Democratic Party for campaign efforts. The group’s volunteers are phone-banking, emailing and door-knocking for Iowa Democratic candidates statewide—including U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Braley who is in a battle for his political life, locked in a tougher-than-expected slugfest with previously little-known State Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican from southwest Iowa.
Braley was Harkin’s personal choice to replace him. Clinton praised them both during her remarks at the Steak Fry. And she also took at shot at Ernst, who opposes abortion rights. Clinton said to the crowd, Iowans have “a chance to elect a senator who knows that women should be able to make our own health care decisions.”
They want to elect a man to tell women what health-care system they should prefer? Well, that’s certainly empowering.
This piece is nothing more than a fluff piece for Hillary, hung on a false framework of a “woman problem” in Iowa. If Price and Politico had wanted to focus on the supposed woman problem, they would have profiled the one woman who may very well solve it in November, rather than the aspirational candidate who may or may not bother to try in a couple of years to redeem herself from a surprise third-place finish in 2008. The next time Politico wants to promote Hillary Clinton, perhaps they’ll have the integrity to do so honestly.