Whether or not Hillary Clinton wins the presidency in November, her place in history as the first female nominated to lead a major party was cemented this week.
Although the race is far from over, her success has added a new dynamic to presidential politics in the United States for both parties. What may not have been possible before, now is, and for many women on the rise, it’s time to think bigger.
Clinton hopes the opportunity for the next woman is in eight years, but it could be as soon as 2020, win or lose. And for those who’ve been contemplating it, they, believe it or not, have to be ready and start sketching out their own path fairly soon.
The odds are slim, political experts say, that another woman would rise to such heights so soon because Clinton is unique among female politicians. She’s been in the spotlight at the highest levels of American politics for a quarter century, and it took her two tries to crack the penultimate glass ceiling. But she’s also controversial and not universally well liked, even by her own party. So perhaps it would be easier for someone else.
Roll Call’s in-house election experts have put together a short list of possibilities. They’re all senators and are led by Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota — both Democrats — and Republican Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.
“Timing is everything in politics, so it’s tough to predict who will be the second woman to lead a presidential ticket for a major party,” said Nathan Gonzales, Roll Call elections editor and publisher of the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report. “But Gillibrand, Klobuchar, and Ayotte have the resumes, credibility, and campaign experience to run for president if they get the opportunity.”
There are others who didn’t make that cut whose names were bandied about in vice presidential chatter this year, and have compiled impressive credentials. They include Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Govs. Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Susana Martinez of New Mexico, both Republicans.
“Hillary Clinton is a uniquely qualified candidate, who has earned people’s votes not because she is a female candidate, but because of her qualifications and leadership in the world,” said Cara Okopny, professorial lecturer at the Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program at American University.
It’s going to be hard for women to get their resumes to look like hers, according to Okopny.
“If Senator Clinton wins the presidency, she will continue to be judged and most likely, those judgments will be in part due to sexism. And perhaps that will influence who we might even select as the next person to perhaps run for a major party,” she said.
Others are more optimistic.
“Once the country elects a woman, then you go through that experience of having a female president and that should open the door for future women to run and not have to face some of the difficulties that Hillary is facing,” said Matthew R. Kerbel, professor and chairman of the Department of Political Science at Villanova University.
“It’s always the most difficult to go first,” Kerbel noted.