Female friends conflicted over Clinton candidacyby Curtis Gilbert, Minnesota Public Radio,
Molly Bloom, Minnesota Public Radio
This could be a make-or-break day for Hillary Clinton. After a long losing streak, she is hoping to make a comeback in the Texas and Ohio primaries. Minnesota Public Radio recently asked a group of women to reflect on Clinton's campaign to be America's first female president.
St. Anthony Village, Minn. — Kim Goodwin is having a terrible time choosing between Clinton and Obama.
"This is one of the most difficult decisions I've had as an adult," she says.
And oddly enough, the thing that makes it so hard is her daughter.
"When Caitlin was six, she made this drawing: 'I want to be the first woman president when I grow up,'" Goodwin says, her voice cracking slightly as she holds up the picture. "And I said to her, 'honey, that's fabulous.' And I held her sholder, and inside what I was thinking was: 'I hope we don't have to wait 35 years.'"
Goodwin, 43, thinks a Clinton presidency would be an inspiration to women and girls everywhere. But her daughter Caitlin is 17 now, and even though she won't be quite old enough to vote on election day, Caitlin Goodwin has made up her mind.
"I've been really swayed toward Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton," Caitlin says.
So even though she, personally, gravitates to Clinton, Kim Goodwin wants to see the young people who've rallied around Obama rewarded for their enthusiasm.
"I don't want this huge new wave of people committed to democracy having their hopes dashed, frankly." Goodwin says. "So I'm about as split as I possibly can be."
Kim Goodwin's friends also have complicated feelings about the Clinton candidacy.
She invited seven of them over to talk politics. There are Democrats and Republicans, mothers and daughters, old friends and recent acquaintances. And they've come to different conclusions about whether Clinton is the best candidate in the field.
"Today, I'm supporting Hillary Clinton," says Kathleen Westgard, 43.
"No, I wouldn't vote for her," says Republican Therese Liffrig. "But if she won, I'd be happy about it."
"She just came across as a little bit too slick of a politician," Obama supporter Stephanie Forsland says.
"I want Hillary to be in the White House," Stillwater resident Janna Wedel, 23, says.
Most of Wedel's friends are backing Obama, but she values Clinton's experience. And she says Clinton's gender means she'd approach to the presidency in different way.
"I think her focus is a lot about caring for people who can't care for themselves, like children and health care," Wedel says. "And I think Obama's a wonderful candidate, but I think his focus is different, because he's a man."
All the women in this group respect Clinton and think she's a good candidate -- even the Republicans. They all raise their hands when asked if they call themselves feminists. But Diane Young hesitates a moment.
"I think fewer women than men are maybe up to the task," she says.
Young says Clinton is, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would be, too. But Young, who's supporting Republican John McCain this year, has a feeling it's a shorter list.
"I just think of the emotional aspect that women bring to their lives, innately," she says. "I think some of those differences could make it not as equal a playing field as some other roles."
Young's old friend and fellow Republican Therese Liffrig has to disagree.
"Coming from the person who said it, who's an incredibly strong woman, who has probably stood up top adversity better than a lot of men, it surprises me that you would say that," Liffrig says.
Liffrig supports John McCain. She is the one who said she would be happy if Clinton won, even though she is not going to vote for her. And Liffrig thinks the media is harder on Clinton because she's a woman.
"And I've found it very irksome that keep referring to her as 'Hillary,'" Liffrig says. "And yet they'll refer to the others by their last name and I find that very patronizing."
Clinton supporter Kathleen Westgard agrees the media aren't giving her candidate a fair shake. She thinks gender stereotypes are one reason Obama's campaign has surged ahead of Clinton's.
"I hate to say this. I think it is personality," Westgard says. "And as a woman that bothers me, because I don't know that personality seems to be getting in the way of the men as much as it seems to be getting in her way."
Stephanie Forsland is bothered by the personality thing, too. She actually got a chance to meet Clinton about eight years ago.
"And she was one of the warmest, kindest, most approachable people in a position of power, if you will, that I had ever come across," Forsland says.
But when she had the chance to cast her ballot at caucus last month, Forsland voted for Obama. She still wants to see a woman elected president, but she has a feeling she won't have to wait 35 years for that. Most of the other women agree.
- Morning Edition, 03/04/2008, 7:20 a.m.
Curtis Gilbert covers the Twin Cities as a member of the MPR News metro reporting unit.