Friday, September 12, 2008

Attacking Female Candidates: Texas Lessons

While John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate has thrown Barack Obama's campaign completely off kilter, at least he has not performed as badly as Clayton Williams, who opposed Ann Richards in her first run for governor in 1990. According to the Dallas Morning News:

Mr. Williams made headlines by refusing to shake Ms. Richards' extended hand after taking offense at some of her remarks; he told a joke about rape; he said he would "head her and hoof her and drag her through the dirt;" and he commented on visiting Mexican brothels as a youth because they were the "only places you could get serviced then."

George Shipley, who worked on the Richards' campaign, argues that sexism still works against female candidates, but male opponents still need to be cautious, making sure that any attacks are directed at issues, as opposed to being personal. In fact, Mark Sanders, a spokesman for gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn when she ran against Rick Perry in 2006, says that his candidate was "counting on the Perry people to... one, to attack her and another to do it poorly."

Keeping attacks above board sounds like a good principle for any race -- and not just for one against a woman. Regardless, it is clear that the Democrats have not gone that route, much to their regret.


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