The number of women entering politics has increased dramatically in the last decade. NBC's Andrea Mitchell examines several candidates, how they are playing political hardball, and why female candidates in general are gaining more acceptance.
Women Candidates Proving Tough Political Opponents
KEITH MORRISON, anchor:
On Focus today, women in politics. During the past decade, their numbers have increased sharply. But, as they say, `You ain't seen nothin' yet.' If you're looking for real change in American politics, this year's campaign trail is probably where you'll find it. To tell us more, Andrea Mitchell joins us now from Washington. Andrea ?
ANDREA MITCHELL reporting:
Well Keith, as you pointed out, women have come a long way. But if you think that means a kinder, gentler politics of white gloves and petticoats, well take another look.
Ann Richards: ...lied during this entire campaign, and he has continued to lie up until Election Day.
Representative LYNN MARTIN (Republican, Rockford): He's missed so many votes that it equals about three years' of legislative work.
Diane Feinstein: Yes, I support the death penalty.
MITCHELL: Tough talk and tough issues, from California to Illinois to Texas, female candidates like Ann Richards are proving they can dish it out, even the opposition is impressed.
Ms. MARY MATALIN (Republican National Committee): She can fight with the best of them. She's a great candidate. She can--she can duke it out like any good candidate can.
MITCHELL: Male opponents used to be afraid to attack a woman candidate--no longer. In the Texas governor's race the big issue in the Democratic primary was whether Ann Richards had used drugs.
Mr. JAMES MATTOX (Texas Attorney General): She needs to talk to us about what she's used, when she’s used it, how much, and who supplied it.
MITCHELL: And in what promises to be a close Senate race in Illinois, Republican Lynn Martin may discover one of the realities of equality. If she attacks, her opponent will fight back.
Senator PAUL SIMON (Democrat, Illinois): I can't play touch football, if the other side is playing tackle.
MITCHELL: It's not only that women are playing political hardball; it's also that more women are in the game. Women are running in nine of the 36 governor's races this year, a record number. Why are women candidates gaining more acceptance? For one thing, political analysts say, rightly or wrongly, many voters presume that women candidates are honest, unlike the negative stereotypes they often attach to male politicians. Women candidates are also given credit for caring about child care, abortion, the environment--issues that are important to a whole generation of baby-boom voters.
Mr. HARRISON HICKMAN (Democratic Political Consultant): So that politicians, who for many years may have said a woman shouldn't be running for this office, she can't win, all of a sudden they recognize in their own personal careers that women's issues are important, and that makes them more accepting of women politicians.
As a result of all these changes, women could end up as governors in major states, including Texas and California. But despite that change, it doesn't appear that they are going to be breaking into the US Senate. There is still a lot of resistance to women defeating incumbents in Congress. Keith:
MORRISON: Andrea, what about money? Money, of course, is the grease of politics. Are, are the women getting their share?
MITCHELL: Well, that is the biggest drawback, Keith. As you know, money is the most important part of politics. And the women have found that people are willing to vote for them, but the fat cats are not willing to contribute. So, they are still having a hard time raising money.
MORRISON: You know, some of us wonder if we'll ever see a woman in the White House? Will it--will it take that strong attack on the national offices before we get to that point?
MITCHELL: Most people think so, and particularly those governor's races that we were looking at tonight, because until women are elected to the state houses and really running states, that's a crucial step. And until that, you're not going to see a woman probably running for the major offices and getting to the White House.
MORRISON: Thank you, Andrea Mitchell in Washington.