Senate Republican Women Pay the Price of Party

By Jamie Stiehm

October 28, 2020 5 min read

After 30 hours, the Senate barely approved Republican Amy Coney Barrett, its 52-48 vote on the Supreme Court nominee followed by a Trumpian party in the dark, ruined Rose Garden.

But "a change is gonna come," as the song says. Color it blue. We just watched Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's final act in the Bard's American tragedy, "MacMitch."

Cunning, take-nobody-alive MacMitch wields a tight grip on majority power. Losing that will break his hard heart into dust.

The rock-ribbed Republican Senate may wash away in a blue sea next week, sure as I speak.

But the news is better than that. Guess what? Democratic female senators are likely to boost their ranks, from the current 17 out of 47 senators in their caucus.

On the 100th anniversary of woman suffrage in 1920, Democrats lean in the right direction.

It is not so across the aisle. The best news is that five Republican female senators are in contested races they could lose.

Republicans number nine female senators in a total of 53. The number could be cut in half in an anti-Trump "message" election.

And that would serve the party right — even if it adds a new woman from Wyoming.

What has any Republican done for women lately? Barrett just stone-cold took the seat of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the greatest legal champion for women in our time — the day after she lay in the Capitol rotunda.

One sullen senator will likely lose to an astronaut in Arizona; another may lose to an Iowan challenger who knows the break-even price of corn; and one stands to lose in Maine after 24 years because of her Supreme Court vote for Brett Kavanaugh.

A cattle rancher in Mississippi might lose to a Black candidate who served in President Bill Clinton's cabinet, Mike Espy. One novice white Southern senator, appointed to her post, is shaky on skills to hold it.

Air Force veteran fighter pilot Martha McSally, also appointed to her job, hopes to prove a winner in Arizona. But she's not winning in her persona or ground game.

By contrast, Mark Kelly is such a good first-time candidate there are whispers about 2024 presidential material. The former Navy officer and astronaut has much to write home about.

In politics, charm helps on both sides. I've enjoyed conversations with senators I'd never vote for. The best of the breed have the spark of human connection.

Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst once had a unique campaign claim: that, as a farm girl, she heard the squeal of the hogs she castrated. Six years in the Senate gave the military veteran more spit and polish, with a pained half-smile in public.

But Ernst failed in a debate to answer the "break-even" soybean price. Her Democratic opponent, Theresa Greenfield, from a farm family, got the break-even price of corn right. Let her go to Washington to represent the flat agricultural state. The name rings right.

For ages, Mainer Susan Collins perfected the part of the last moderate New England Republican. She professed to follow her conscience, not party. But she voted to find President Donald Trump "not guilty" in the impeachment trial. That hurt her.

Earlier, Collins voted for a Supreme Court nominee under a cloud of sexual assault when she could have made a difference. She's compared herself to the truly great Sen. Margaret Chase Smith of Maine once too often. Running against Collins is the Maine House of Representatives Speaker, Sara Gideon.

The Senate has a historic chance to show Black lives matter in the South.

Seasoned and engaging, Black Democrat Mike Espy is challenging a cattle rancher of little note, Cindy Hyde-Smith, who was first appointed to the Senate — and then won a special election against Espy. A Mississippi rematch.

Finally, the appointed Kelly Loeffler of Georgia (another farm girl!) presents well, but with a weak voice in the Senate. She faces a runoff against strong contenders, such as the Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, who is Black.

Note: Three of the five Republican female senators struggling in Senate races were first appointed. If Republican governors care about diversity, the party still has no bench of first-class female talent.

It's their loss, literally — how little Republicans care about women.

Jamie Stiehm writes on Washington politics and history. She may be reached at To read her weekly column and find out more about Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, please visit

Photo credit: leahopebonzer at Pixabay

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