DEBORAH AMOS, host:
All this week, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has been focusing her campaign on women. A recent ABC News/Washington Post Poll shows 57 percent of women polled would support Clinton in the primary.
So to talk more about Hillary Clinton and her appeal to women voters, we called Gail Collins. She's a columnist for the New York Times and the author of the "America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines."
Ms. GAIL COLLINS (Columnist, New York Times): Good morning.
AMOS: So are women supporting Hillary Clinton simply because she's a woman, or is this a more complicated question?
Ms. COLLINS: I think it's way more complicated. There's never been - I don't think we've ever seen an election in which you had women supporting a female candidate because she was a woman. The gap between women and men in voting is, as far as I can tell, mainly about the fact that women are more concerned with social safety nets. And she, like her husband, you know, there was a huge gender gap on the side of Bill Clinton for that same reason. He appeals to the kinds of issues that women really care about.
AMOS: You know, the ABC-Washington Post Poll shows 57 percent of women would support her in the primary, but that suggests that there is a number of women who don't. Is there a reason that they don't like Hillary Clinton?
Ms. COLLINS: Yeah, and partly you just strip out the woman thing. A lot of women, a lot of men, a lot of everybody are - don't like things about her, particularly the fact that she doesn't seemed to a lot of people to be genuine when she's on the stump. And it is - I've never seen a perfect poll on it, but everybody, including the Clinton campaign, I think, agrees that the Democratic women who are least enraptured by Hillary Clinton are women who are most like Hillary Clinton; that is, sort of educated women, leftist, activists, people who went Yale Law School, people like that…
AMOS: Her classmates.
Ms. COLLINS: …are her least intense sort of supporters.
AMOS: Now, is this the same Hillary Clinton then that we saw on "60 Minutes" back in 1992? Remember, she said I'm not sitting here, some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynett.
Ms. COLLINS: Yeah, she's exactly the same. I think the great strength, frankly, of Hillary Clinton in this campaign is that anybody who's capable of, like, being disappointed by Hillary Clinton has already been disappointed by Hillary Clinton at some point or another. They've hoped that she would do something dramatic or brave or sort of off center and she didn't, and they were disappointed. But the difference is that all the people running against her have yet to disappoint their followers in the same way.
AMOS: Although there's some - there could be some pitfalls. For example, the events this week include talking about new proposals to help working families with paid family leave. How did she do that? Is she looked at more closely than a male candidate who might be offering the same kind of proposals?
Ms. COLLINS: I don't know, since none of the male candidates have ever bothered, as far as I can tell, to speak about the question, particularly of child care, at all, ever. But if you look at the stuff she's offering this week, I mean, there's no big huge agenda. There is no grand initiative at all.
AMOS: Do you think that she could be a serious contender for the White House if she hadn't been the first lady?
Ms. COLLINS: I think that it probably was almost inevitable that the first woman who would introduce herself to the country as a real potential president would do it with the help of some male president or possible president or somebody else that the country knew very well coming in ahead of her. And it's not - to be fair, also to her - this is not the first time recently we've seen this kind of phenomenon.
I remember eight years ago, or seven years ago going around when George Bush was running for president and asking Republicans at various gatherings, you know, why do you think this guy would be a good president? And they would almost invariably say, well, if there's a problem, his mom and dad can help him out. It was a comfort level that you had. And I think there's quite a bit of that going on here too.
AMOS: Gail Collins is a columnist for the New York Times.
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