Both CBS This Morning and NBC’s Today on Thursday devoted lengthy segments to fretting over Hillary Clinton’s failure to gain support among young female voters. Hosts on the two network morning shows wrung their hands while discussing how Clinton was “trounced” in New Hampshire by Bernie Sanders due to her “surprising struggle” to win over women.
CBS turned to Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief Joanna Coles to explain the Democratic candidate’s difficulty, with co-host Norah O’Donnell wondering: “New Hampshire, there’s no doubt she got trounced by Bernie Sanders among all demographic groups, including women. What happened?” Coles argued: “...voters are looking for something new....there is a huge mistrust of American institutions....And, of course, Hillary Clinton is seen as part of that establishment....she’s actually running from a much more moderate place, promising more of the same.”
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At one point in the exchange, things got so heated that Coles accused co-host Charlie Rose of being “sexist” when he asked her about whether women support Clinton:
ROSE: Okay, but what Norah’s asking, is Hillary doing worse outside of New Hampshire? Is there, in the nation, a sense that women are perfectly happy with her?
COLES: Well, first of all –
ROSE: Other than those who separate themselves out because of they’re millennials?
COLES: First of all, I think – I love your questioning, I think it's deeply sexist. The idea that women vote only with their vaginas is as ridiculous as suggesting that men vote only with their penises. They vote for the things they care about.
Minutes later, Coles declared pop singers had more influence over young women than Clinton: “I don't think women look at Hillary and think she is their feminist icon. I think young women think of Beyonce or Rihanna as their feminist icon.” Doubling down on that assertion, Coles proclaimed: “I do think that this is a generation that look at Beyonce and think, ‘I want to be like her.’ Look at the way she won the Super Bowl, right? No one can remember if it was the Broncos or the Panthers. Beyonce came out of that the winner.”
Co-host Gayle King worried about the possibility of “Clinton fatigue” in the electorate, prompting Coles to observe: “We are taught to want new things. And Hillary Clinton, as she herself said at her Democratic town hall on CNN, she’s been around in the public eye for 25 years, and that feels dull. People want change.”
However, Coles predicted women would flock to Clinton in a general election to stop the GOP: “That doesn't mean they won't support her in the actual general election when she’s up against some of the Republican candidates who want to say women have no right to choose and have no access to abortion, which I do think is an important issue for young women.”
King reassured viewers: “And the race is still early, we’ve only had two states.” Coles agreed: “Very early. Very early. We can't assume that New Hampshire is gonna dictate the rest of the election.”
On Today, co-host Matt Lauer noted “the surprising struggle facing Hillary Clinton.” Followed by fellow co-host Savannah Guthrie posing the question: “...why is she having trouble courting female voters?”
Correspondent Andrea Mitchell began her report on the topic by acknowledging: “Well, with arguably the world's most famous woman running for president many expected there would be a gender gap. Few knew it would break in favor of Bernie Sanders, who beat Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire by 59 points with young women and even 11 points among all women.”
The headline on screen read: “Hillary Clinton’s ‘Women Problem’; Dem Front-Runner Facing Serious Generational Challenge.”
Amid sounbites of young women supporting Sanders, Mitchell highlighted controversies over recent statements from Clinton supporters:
MITCHELL: ...the first female secretary of state, Madeline Albright. This week, Albright still campaigning by her side.
MADELINE ALBRIGHT: A lot of you younger women don't think you have to – that it’s been done. It’s not done. Just remember, there’s a special place in hell for women who don't help each other.
MITCHELL: A phrase she’s used for years, but it provoked young women, who broke heavily for Bernie Sanders....And igniting outrage on Twitter, after feminist icon Gloria Steinem said some women supported Sanders just to meet boys.
GLORIA STEINEM: And when you’re young, you’re thinking, you know, where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.
Mitchell concluded the report by remarking that Clinton was “now worried her appeal may be falling through the cracks.”
In a discussion that followed the report, Guthrie opined: “I guess there’s a certain irony here because the biggest and surest sign of progress in the women's movement is that younger women don't necessarily look at the candidate's gender as a reason to vote for him or her.”
Lauer denounced Albright’s comments: “...it’s insulting when you hear Madeleine Albright say what she says. As if, ‘Don't look at credentials, don’t look at policies, don’t look at issues. You’re a woman, vote for a woman.’ It just makes no sense.”
Mitchell rushed to her defense:
Well, it's a phrase I’ve heard her use since 1995 in Beijing. It’s even on a Starbucks cup. The problem was the context. She says it jokingly, but she said it here at a rally with young women and it seemed to be scolding them. And so, that’s, I think, the problem. That was out of context. Steinem, a different issue, she’s not working with the campaign, she was just on, you know, the Bill Maher show and a completely separate issue.
Though even Mitchell expressed frustration at the Clinton campaign:
But I think young women don’t feel that connection. And if you’re Hillary Clinton and you came out of Wellesley you were the valedictorian, you have this life story, which they’re telling improbably in a campaign video at all of her rallies. They don't want to hear what she did. They want to know what can she do for them. And she talks about “I,” not about “We,” as Bernie Sanders does. And they want to know, you know, how are you going to help me with the sexual assault issue, with what’s happening in social media, how to get a job? And she’s not being specific about that.
Guthrie replied: “Isn't this just a larger symptom of what’s going on with Hillary Clinton’s campaign? Is that Bernie Sanders seems to have keyed in on this message that a lot of voters, particularly young voters, find very inspiring and Hillary Clinton has not yet found that message for her campaign?”
MSNBC political analyst Nicolle Wallace warned: “She hasn't found the message. The problem is that she’s looking for one. Bernie Sanders didn't go out hunting for a message, he is who he is. He is his revolution. Hillary Clinton's campaign is struggling full stop.”
Lauer added: “And you’re not struggling to find a message a year out from Iowa, you’re struggling to find a message in the thick of the primary season.” Wallace responded: “Exactly, it is way too late to still be trying to find her voice, as she said.”
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