As Hillary Clinton campaigned with Elizabeth Warren for the first time Monday, the joint appearance raised the question: Is America ready for two women on a presidential ticket?
Clinton is, of course, the first woman ever to clinch a major-party nomination for president. And she’s considering adding a second woman to the ticket, with Warren, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, as a running mate.
“There is a wow factor to having two women on the ticket,” said Jim Hodges, a former governor of South Carolina and a Clinton ally who urged the campaign to select a woman. “It’s a change message, particularly in this climate.”
Clinton will pick a running mate before Democrats hold their national convention July 25-28 in Philadelphia.
Clinton and Warren appeared together at Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, the kind of test run that presumptive nominees often use to measure face-to-face campaign chemistry as they narrow their choices. Clinton and Warren grasped hands in front of about 2,600 enthusiastic supporters.
“Hillary has brains, she has guts, she has thick skin and steady hands, but most of all she has a good heart, and that is what America needs and that is why I’m with her,” Warren told the crowd. “Are you with her?”
Clinton described Warren as a friend and a great leader, saying, “You just saw why she is considered so terrific, so formidable, because she tells it like it is.” Clinton herself said recently that the country probably was 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, along 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.
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“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 that when a pair of women ran for two open Senate seats in California in 1992, the 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 gradually come to accept the concept of a female president, as well.
We’ve had two men representing [America] – the president and vice president – for centuries. My personal feeling is I don’t see why you couldn’t have two women – whoever they might be – and they’d be as good as two men.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
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 with 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 with other countries.
A handful 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 tickets 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 they bring to the ticket or the office, through geography, voting bloc or issue.
James Hamilton, a Washington lawyer, is heading the vetting process, while Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, and Cheryl Mills, chief of staff to Clinton when she was secretary of state, are overseeing the search.
Clinton and Warren are not close – the senator did not endorse Clinton until after she secured enough delegates to become the presumptive nominee – but they recently met for about an hour in Washington.
Other women who would have been strong contenders but are barred by the Constitution from serving: former Gov. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, who was born in Canada, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who is from the same state as Clinton.
Timothy Walch, a former director of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and an expert on vice presidential searches, said he thought Clinton would go for a more traditional pick – a man with executive experience – and not choose a woman, because she was unlikely to make bold choices.
“It’s untested,” he said. “She’s more cautious, generally.”