On a day when Hillary Clinton is going to campaign with Elizabeth Warren, the joint appearance raises the question: Is America ready for two women on a presidential ticket?
Clinton is the first woman to clinch a major party nomination for president. And now she’s considering adding a second woman to the ticket with Warren, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts, as her running mate.
They will appear together Monday in Cincinnati, the kind of test run nominees often use to measure campaign chemistry as they narrow their choices.
“There is a wow factor to having two women on the ticket,” said Jim Hodges, a former governor of South Carolina and Clinton ally who urged the campaign to select a woman. “It’s a change message particularly in this climate.”
Clinton herself said recently that the country is likely ready for two women on a ticket.
“I think at some point. Maybe this time, maybe in the future,” Clinton said on ABC the day she secured the nomination. “But we’re going to be looking for the most qualified person to become president should something happen to me, if I’m fortunate enough to be the president.”
Warren is considered to be on the short list of candidates being actively considered, with Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Housing Secretary Julian Castro of Texas. Others mentioned as possible contenders include Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Tom Perez, the secretary of labor; and Rep. Xavier Becerra of California.
Other women who are sometimes mentioned include Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and former Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona.
“Voting for a woman for vice president shouldn’t be a heavy lift,” said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. “Most Americans would be ready. At this point, people who won’t vote for two women wouldn’t vote for one.”
Walsh said when two women ran for two open Senate seats in California in 1992 conventional wisdom was that one would lose. Instead, both Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer won. It was the first time two women represented a state in the Senate. Since then, New Hampshire, Maine and Washington have all followed suit.
At least in the abstract, Americans have also gradually come to accept the concept of a female president.
In 1937, only one in three Americans polled said they would vote for a qualified woman for president, according to Gallup. By 2015, it had expanded to more than nine in 10.
Earlier this month, a leading Democratic senator who supports Clinton did question whether an all-female ticket would be prudent. “I don’t know. Is the country ready for two women? I don’t know,” Sen. Jon Tester of Montana said in a radio interview WNYC in New York.
Tester, who leads the Senate Democrats’ campaign committee, later said he regretted his words. “I shouldn’t have said that and it doesn’t reflect my values,” Tester said in a statement. “I have always believed that we need more women in leadership positions, not fewer.”
For those who have pushed for greater leadership positions for women for decades, a female presidential nominee has come late, especially when compared to other countries.
A few of other women have run for president, but it wasn’t until 2008 that Clinton became the first female candidate to vie seriously for the White House. Two women – Democrat Geraldine Ferraro and Republican Sarah Palin – have appeared on major party national ticket as vice presidential candidates, but alongside men.
“We’ve had 240 years of same-gender tickets,” said Barbara Lee, founder and president of the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, which pushes for more women in politics. “The fact that a potential two-woman ticket raises questions shows that we’ve made progress, but we still have a long way to go.”
Lee said presidential candidates must evaluate potential female vice presidential candidates using the same criteria they would use to evaluate male contenders, including what she or he brings to the ticket or the office, through geography, voting bloc or issue.
Clinton and Warren are not close – the senator did not endorse her until after she secured enough delegates to become the nominee – but they recently met for about an hour in Washington.
Timothy Walch, former director of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and an expert on vice presidential searches, said he thinks that Clinton will go for a more traditional pick – a man with executive experience – and not chose a woman because she’s unlikely to make a bold choices.