Sarah Palin changed the game for women and power, and it'll never be the same again. So say a few well-known women -- Arianna Huffington, former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, White House Project president Marie Wilson, and More magazine editor in chief Lesley Jane Seymour -- who met in New York this morning for "The Spin Room: Gender, Politics and Media in the 2008 Election." The lively panel was sponsored by New York Women in Communications. And the panelists, mind you, are more likely to loathe than love Palin (they lean left politically, after all), but their message is that the Palin Effect is a good thing for women in the long run.
Here's why: First, Palin matters. "She's the epitome of the celebrification of politics," said Seymour, who finds such a trend distasteful yet recognizes that it validates and augments Palin's power. "She ain't goin away." Palin's popularity ratings have risen, in fact, since Election Day, as she has swarmed the airwaves. Back home in her kitchen, cooking up caribou dogs with NBC Today's Matt Lauer, the Alaska governor promoted her state and her stance on energy policy. If, as the panelists noted, Palin had performed as well during the presidential race, John McCain might be heading to the White House.
As for sexism -- which, depending on your politics, poisoned the presidential contest or did not -- Palin changed perceptions of that too. The media, tough on Hillary Clinton, reverted to chivalry with Palin. Remember the vice presidential debate, when Palin could have won simply if she didn't bomb? Expectations were so low. (Huffington recalled live-blogging about the debate at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit and asking McCain campaign co-chair Meg Whitman, the former eBay (EBAY) CEO, how Palin performed. "Good enough," Whitman replied.)
As it turned out, another famous woman nixed the paternalistic treatment of Palin: "Katie Couric was the first person who went after her without sexism," Ferraro said. Couric's hard-charging interview on CBS sunk Palin's prospects. It also revived Couric's flagging career.
Meanwhile, the panelists gave high marks to a little-known woman whom we're sure to hear more about: Valerie Jarrett, a longtime confidante of Barack Obama who helped his campaign avoid the leaks that typically mar campaigns (and fatally damaged Clinton's). No drama Obama: Jarrett was key. "I've never seen a campaign that's so good as the Obama campaign," Ferraro noted. "If he runs the country the same way, we'll be in great shape."
What about Hillary Clinton? Oddly, this group had little to say about the supposed first woman president. But don't read too much into that. At the end of the hour, the panelists forecast that four years from now, America could have two women running for president. Palin vs. Clinton: Can you imagine that?
P.S. In mid-September, 126 participants of the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit responded to a survey that included this question: What role do you think Hillary Clinton will have in 2012? Sixteen percent predicted that Clinton will be president. 40% predicted that she'll be Senate majority leader. The rest of the group said she'll be neither. So what do you think?
This morning I read about the Democrats' hush-hush plan to ease Senator Robert Byrd out of his powerful post as chairman of the Appropriations Committee. Byrd is 90. What's most interesting here is who would inherit his job: Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii. Inouye is 84.
Age is relative, as they say. We're living longer. Our minds stay stronger. And particularly these days, age may be an advantage.
Look around at who's MOREJessica Shambora, Writer-Reporter - Oct 29, 2008 3:00 PM ET
by Jessica Shambora
Barack Obama is on his way to the White House, so the polls suggest. But how are we going to feel once he's President of the U.S.? And if--just if--McCain upsets Obama, where will our heads and hearts be then?
Added Value, a brand consultancy that has worked with such companies as Honda (HMC), Kimberly-Clark (KMB), Coca-Cola (KO), Nestle (NSRGF) and Wyeth (WYE), explored the emotional connections between consumers MOREJessica Shambora, Writer-Reporter - Oct 23, 2008 4:30 PM ET
If Barack Obama wins the Presidency--which is ever more likely since he's leading in virtually all the polls--some credit must go to his campaign's embrace of new-fangled communication methods. Specifically, social networking. During a panel called "One Month to Go: The Road to the White House" at Fortune's recent Most Powerful Women Summit, Penny Pritzker, Obama's finance chair, talked about how his campaign had a scant 20,000 names early on, MOREPatricia Sellers - Oct 17, 2008 1:02 PM ET
"Go vote now. It'll make you feel big and strong."
-- CBS (CBS) News Washington bureau chief Bob Schieffer shared this advice from his mother last night, as a closer to the final debate between Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain. In these tumultous times when we can feel so powerless, voting is one way that to make our voices heard. There is a consensus that this was the liveliest MOREJessica Shambora, Writer-Reporter - Oct 16, 2008 5:24 PM ET
What a wrapup this morning at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit. I interviewed Melinda Gates -- with Warren Buffett watching from the front row. Buffett was flanked by his daughter, Susie, and his daughter-in-law, Jennifer, both of whom are powerful philanthropists in their own right.
It was fascinating to have Melinda Gates talk about her heady missions -- find an AIDS vaccine, eradicate malaria, reform U.S. education, bring a Green Revolution to Africa MOREPatricia Sellers - Oct 3, 2008 5:25 PM ET
We've been talking quite a bit about philanthropy here on Postcards. I like that. I hope you do too. Last week, I published Jennifer Buffett's Guest Post and told you about Melinda Gates. Here's another not-for-profit pioneer whose efforts derive from personal passion: Silda Wall Spitzer.
A dozen years ago, Spitzer couldn't find many ways for her three young daughters to perform community service. Now her daughters are on the way MOREPatricia Sellers - Sep 12, 2008 2:46 PM ET
by Silda Wall Spitzer
In this time of typical partisan politics, something atypical, indeed remarkable, has happened. The Republican and Democratic candidates have agreed on an important issue. This week, John McCain and Barack Obama are coming together at the ServiceNation Summit Presidential Forum in New York City to affirm the importance of citizen service as integral to their vision, as it was for our forefathers. As a member of the ServiceNation MOREPatricia Sellers - Sep 11, 2008 3:24 PM ET
Keeping it brief today. Jessica and I are heading to the U.S. Open. Ilana Kloss, the CEO of World TeamTennis, invited us. We're hoping Billie Jean King, who co-founded and helps run WTT, is with us too. Btw, check out BJK's Guest Post -- and a piece I wrote about her odd connections to some of Fortune's Most Powerful Women.
Speaking of MPWomen, did you see the Republican convention last night? Sarah MOREPatricia Sellers - Sep 4, 2008 12:35 PM ET
"Anytime you have a fiercely competitive, change-oriented growth business where results count and merit matters, women will rise to the top."
- Carly Fiorina said this 10 years ago this week, when I interviewed her for the very first Fortune Most Powerful Women in Businesss issue. Then a senior exec at Lucent, Fiorina was virtually unknown outside the telecom industry. In fact, she had had only one profile written about her, MOREPatricia Sellers - Aug 1, 2008 12:49 PM ET
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