A tale of two (political) women: Clinton and Fiorina

Depending on your perspective, Hillary Clinton either has a lot of work to do in tonight’s Democrat debate or basically none at all. There’s an argument to be made for the latter with much to recommend it because this isn’t the general election. Hillary’s immediate task is to win the nomination of her party and by nearly every recent poll she has little or nothing to worry about. While Bernie Sanders may be leading in a couple of early states and drawing huge crowds and the buzz factor of a bored political media machine, she’s holding a solid lead among Democrats in most of the rest of the states and nationally as well. The DNC and most of its surrogates are still providing a firewall for her in every way possible while whistling past the graveyard in terms of her general election favorability numbers and untrustworthy nature in the eyes of the public. In that regard, Clinton really doesn’t need to do anything tonight other than avoid making any major mistakes and she should, at least in theory, be able to coast on to an easy primary victory.

But even if that’s the case she won’t want to waste the opportunity of a national audience gathered together to watch the debates. Hillary won’t want to look too aggressive in going after her fellow Democrats on the stage… in fact she’ll probably want to make a point of avoiding that and laughing off any of their jabs. She also probably hates the idea of being questioned on her various scandals (assuming Anderson Cooper and company are rude enough to even bring them up) but she will still have the chance to attack the Republicans in front of a friendly audience and begin setting herself up for the general election. In that regard she has plenty of material prepared for Trump and Bush, as well as a few of the other men in the running, but she’s taking a decidedly more careful tone when it comes to Carly Fiorina. (Time Magazine)

Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton says Republican rival Carly Fiorina should not be judged any differently just because she is the only woman candidate in the Republican presidential race.

“I’m always in favor of women running,” she told TIME in an exclusive interview. “But people need to hold women’s policies up to light and determine what their answers to problems would be before deciding to support them. I’m willing to subject myself to that process and try to earn every vote; I assume any woman running would do the same.”…

Clinton has repeatedly sold her campaign in part based on the potentially historic nature of her candidacy. But Clinton is now arguing that a President Fiorina would be as bad as her male Republican counterparts for women. In other words, all female candidates are not created equal.

It’s still a possibility – though an increasingly unlikely one, statistically – that Clinton could wind up in an unprecedented general election battle featuring two women. The fascinating aspect of watching these two is the completely opposite approaches they are taking. For her part, Hillary doesn’t seem to have much of a choice. She can’t afford to go after Fiorina too hard without parsing her words carefully. Her entire identity as she tries to establish her viability as a candidate is that she’s the historic First Female President in waiting. It’s all about the demographics game for Hillary and her surrogates use that to great advantage. Any criticism of her is scrutinized for the flimsiest possible excuse to claim that she’s being attacked for being a woman. With that as your calling card you really can’t go slinging too much mud at any other ladies.

Fiorina, on the other hand, has been on the exact opposite end of the spectrum since she entered the race. She’s never been running on the “elect me because I’m a woman” ticket, though I’m sure her team isn’t terribly unhappy if that helps. But she’s also been free to attack Clinton more directly and aggressively than any of her male counterparts, knowing that Hillary is finally faced with somebody she can’t play the gender card against. In short, Hillary is walking on eggshells around Fiorina while Carly is serving up omelets. If they both do somehow make it through their respective primaries it will be a battle for the ages.

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