4 Women Running the Race in Very Different Ways

By Jamie Stiehm

August 21, 2019 5 min read

The Tomboy, the New Kid in Class, the Good Girl and the Scrappy Underdog.

Quick, who are these four women? Elementary, everybody, the Democratic women senators running for president.

Each candidate has defined her persona very differently since winter turned to summer. This is a useful reminder that not all women are alike. All try hard not to conjure Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee who lost to Donald Trump.

Curiously, only one is speaking straight out to women in the 2020 electorate.

First up, the leader. Elizabeth Warren is the tomboy, with her short locks, plain dress code and bursting energy. She looks ready to hop a gate, race you 'round an Iowa corn maze, or climb a tree if you dare her. (Don't.) She's 70, but she looks 20 years younger.

Warren reminds me of the first heroine in American fiction, Jo March of "Little Women," also from Massachusetts. Earnest, expressive and hard-working, always with a plan to improve her family's dire financial plight, Jo's frank charm wins over everyone once they get to know her. The same might be said of Warren, playing well in the heartland. She grew up as an "Okie" from Oklahoma.

I witnessed the late-night moment when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky,. said on the floor, "Nevertheless, she persisted." Warren stood up straight, taking the rare rebuke as a compliment.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was Warren's brainchild after the Great Recession. That was her way of standing up to Wall Street big banks when nobody else did — before becoming a senator.

When it comes to the New Kid in Class, Kamala Harris of California, give her this: She has a striking presence and is well-spoken and quietly glamorous. However, the only freshman senator running has much less seasoning than the other women.

Years count in working with colleagues and getting bills passed. Like Barack Obama, a freshman Senate sensation when he ran for president, Harris spends little time on the floor. Unlike Obama, she rarely cracks a smile while there. Her beams at the Iowa State Fair and elsewhere on the stump seem like a split personality.

So Harris has a thin record, defined by two inspired flashes on the Judiciary Committee, when she questioned Jefferson Sessions and Brett Kavanaugh in confirmation hearings for attorney general and Supreme Court justice, respectively. Boy, she was sharp, on her best game as a former state attorney general. Sessions got flustered, which was fun to watch.

Then Harris landed on Joe Biden on the June debate stage. Yet few know the enigma, the New Kid, any better. Her readiness as a national candidate is suspect.

Minnesota's Amy Klobuchar is the classic good girl in her demeanor. However poorly she may treat her staff, she always has a smile on her face, especially in dealing with men (and the Senate is 75% men).

She replied meekly when Kavanaugh taunted her at the same confirmation panel where Harris excelled.

"Would you please answer the question?" was all she said. She had just revealed that her father was an alcoholic — which helps explain why she tries so hard to please.

Klobuchar's Yale Law credential, which she shares with Clinton, suggests she's plenty bright, not just fallen off the turnip truck. But can she face and engage Trump? She claims she can win Midwestern states Clinton lost.

But of the four, Klobuchar may be the one Trump would most like to run against. She's the one who resembles Clinton.

The Scrappy Underdog is upstart Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. Like Warren, she's feisty, outspoken, not a good girl. She confronted powerful men — military generals — in getting the gay ban lifted and challenging sexual harassment policies.

Gillibrand led the march pressuring Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., to resign. Good. That hurts her among donors. Yet she said yesterday in a Washington Post forum there were several "credible" charges of sexual misconduct, even a couple since he was elected. Franken decided to resign before an ethics investigation.

Here's what I like about Gillibrand. She's the only one speaking straight out on women's issues: reproductive rights under siege, equal pay and paid family leave.

We the people, the women, take note.

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the creators.com website.

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