...the real challenge, according to political strategists in both parties, may be for Mrs. Bachmann’s rivals, who will have to find ways to disagree, sometimes vociferously, with Mrs. Bachmann without being accused of making subtle references to her gender.
“They need to respect her gender but ignore it,” said Kellyanne Conway, a pollster for Republican candidates and conservative causes. “What happens is in unguarded moments, if you are rolling your eyes or are chuckling when a woman says something, it’s often taken as you are chuckling at their intelligence.”
“There are pitfalls because gender in politics is still such a novelty,” Ms. Conway said. “It’s a deft balance.”
Anita Dunn, who served as President Obama’s communication’s director, agreed. She said the men in the Republican field (and, eventually, Mr. Obama, if Mrs. Bachmann becomes the nominee) have to figure out how to “attack a woman” without allowing the criticism to turn into what she called a gender slight.
“The challenge is to disagree without crossing into an area where you sound condescending, patronizing or nasty,” Ms. Dunn, a Democratic communications strategist said. “It’s about tone and it’s about respect.”It's interesting to me that the media are talking about the challenges for Republican presidential candidates in 2012 when many of them went out of their way in 2008 to discredit a vice-presidential nominee named Sarah Palin. In too many cases those attacks were based on her gender.
Now, let me make clear that Ms. Palin during and since 2008 has done more than enough to ensure that the words "serious", "political and "candidate" ought not be placed in the same sentence; nevertheless, it has been my contention that the media unfairly treated her in the last presidential election cycle.
Consider, for example, the incessant coverage about her as the mother of a young child. I hope this doesn't sound sarcastic, but I could care less if a politician is the mother or father of a baby; his or her role as parent is not a political issue. Yet, for Ms. Palin, it was. And I hope someone can give me a non-partisan reason.
Stepping down from my soap box, I find it intriguing that the media are interested in how various politicians treat Rep. Bachmann as she moves her candidacy forward.
One area in which Rep. Bachmann is open for criticism is in her legislative record, which as Politico points out is thin. No challenger can be deemed sexist, chauvinist or any similar term for asking her to address that.
But can we leave her marriage and children out of the discussion, please? And while we're at it, let's make sure the media don't turn Ms. Bachmann into the Ms. Palin of this national campaign.