Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) fell into a predictable gender trap earlier today when he slammed the body of a female competitor for his Senate seat.
Here’s the background: In 1982, long before he became a U.S. Senator, Mr. Brown posed nude for Cosmopolitan Magazine. During a Democratic primary debate earlier this week, Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren was asked how she paid for college, given that Mr. Brown stripped to pay his tuition.
“I kept my clothes on,” Ms. Warren quipped, to the delight of the audience. (Video here, about 15:15 in).
During a radio interview earlier today, Sen. Brown responded:
Hosts: “Have you officially responded to Elizabeth Warren’s comment about how she didn’t take her clothes off?”
Scott Brown, laughing: “Thank God.”
With that broadside, Mr. Brown stepped into a gender minefield that threatens to alienate many female voters. To be sure, Ms. Warren’s swipe was unnecessary and gratuitous – and the question itself was sophomoric. But regardless of whether or not Ms. Warren opened the door to Mr. Brown’s response (she did), the political price will be paid almost solely by Mr. Brown.
The list of male politicians who lost support by mistreating a female competitor is long. Here are three examples:
1. Hillary Clinton vs. Barack Obama (2008): After winning the Iowa caucus, Senator Barack Obama was widely expected to win the pivotal New Hampshire primary and cruise to an easy nomination. But after taking a gratuitous swipe at Senator Clinton’s likeability in a debate held just days before the vote, female voters handed Ms. Clinton an unexpected victory, helping to extend her campaign for months.
2. Hillary Clinton vs. Rick Lazio (2000): During a New York Senate debate, Republican candidate Rick Lazio aggressively approached Ms. Clinton’s lectern. He handed her a paper pledge to refuse any soft money to the campaign – but the move was widely seen as inappropriate and boorish. Mr. Lazio lost the once-close race by double digits.
3. Geraldine Ferraro vs. George H.W. Bush (1984): During the Vice Presidential debate, Vice President Bush took a patronizing tone with Rep. Ferraro when discussing foreign policy. Ms. Ferraro used her razor sharp tongue to let him know she didn’t appreciate it, earning her the applause of the audience and him the enmity of many opinion writers. In the end, it didn’t matter – Mr. Bush was part of a winning ticket that won 49 states.
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