Women in Congress

WOMEN IN CONGRESS….A couple of days ago I linked to “Queens of the Hill,” an article in our current issue about the rise of Democratic women in the 110th Congress. That prompted an email from a longtime reader who has looked at the outcomes of the November midterms and writes to say that the results were actually pretty dismal this year for Democratic women running for House seats. I haven’t verified his numbers independently, but here’s what he told me:

  • Of the 63 most competitive House races with either a Republican incumbent or a Republican-held open seat, 4 of the 20 Dem female candidates won and 25 of the 43 men won.

  • Of the 19 races in the original DCCC Red-to-Blue program (not counting the at-risk incumbents on the list), one of the nine women won and eight of the 10 men won.

  • Women came up short in the close races. In Republican seats where a Democrat got at least 48% of the vote, 18/26 men won but only 3/12 women. If we move it up to 49%, it’s 18/22 for men and 3/10 for women.

A more sophisticated statistical analysis that controls for such things as incumbency, fundraising, and the partisanship of the district, indicates that this isn’t a fluke: Democratic women really did do significantly worse than Democratic men. This is despite the fact that (a) women historically do about the same as men and (b) this year women were better funded than men on average.

So why did Democratic women do so poorly this year? Is it just a coincidence? Did they get bad campaign advice? Did Republicans run differently against women than against men? Were women more likely to run in certain kinds of districts than men? (What kind? And why did it backfire?) Did the Iraq war backdrop hurt women?

The raw data is intriguing and a bit disturbing, but it’s not clear what conclusions to draw from it. Any thoughts?