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GOP Candidates Snub Women For Top Campaign Roles

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The Republican presidential field features a wide-range of diverse characters vying for the nomination. On the staff level, however, there is much more homogeneity within the ranks: mainly, a notable lack of high-ranking women.

Among the major GOP candidates running for office, not a single one has handed over the title of campaign manager to a female. One, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), has an assistant campaign manager who is a female. The next highest-ranked woman is a national media coordinator for Paul. Texas Gov. Rick Perry's campaign is run almost entirely by men, with the exception of policy director Dierdre Delisi. His campaign manager, chief strategist, three senior advisors, political director and four out of five members of his national media team are men.

Herman Cain's campaign has no women in major operational roles. The only woman with any clout on Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-Minn.) campaign staff is her spokeswoman, Alice Stewart. Newt Gingrich has only a female deputy press secretary, and Rick Santorum has virtually no high-ranking women outside of communications roles on his national campaign staff.

Jon Huntsman had a woman campaign manager until June, when she resigned. His top campaign staffers are now all men.

The exception to the rule is Mitt Romney, who employs a woman deputy campaign manager, senior advisor and communications director.

The lack of women in high-ranking campaign roles may simply be a product of routine gender breakdown. Seventy percent of the women who serve in Congress are Democrats, and 65 percent of women at the state level are Democrats, according to Jennifer Lawless at the Women & Politics Institute. But the numbers could also reflect what some political observers and critics see as a major shortcoming of the current Republican candidates, which is their attitudes toward, and outreach to, women.

Donna Brazile, who ran Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000, said she thinks the lack of women in the current presidential campaigns merely reflects the reality of gender relations across the board.

"There's no question that managing such a large enterprise is daunting, but let's face it -- it's still a man's world," Brazile told HuffPost. "The rigors, the number of campaigns, candidates, surrogates, donors, strategists and consultants that must be a part of the enterprise and back you -- it's an uphill climb. Many women must start at the bottom of the ladder and will find climbing the way to the stop simply takes too damn long."

But women haven't always been left out of the top ranks, in particular with Democrats on the ticket. Mary Beth Cahill ran John Kerry's campaign for the Democratic nomination for president in 2004. Al Gore promoted Donna Brazile to campaign manager of his 2000 presidential campaign, and Hillary Clinton had two women campaign managers when she ran against Barack Obama in 2008: Patti Solis Doyle and her replacement, Maggie Williams.

On the GOP side, Mary Matalin was a highly influential deputy campaign manager for George Bush's 1992 reelection campaign. Karen Hughes and Condoleeza Rice were two of George W. Bush's strongest advisors in his 2000 presidential campaign, and Sara Taylor (now Sara Taylor Fagen) served as chief strategist to the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign in 2004.

Obama hasn't been immune to charges of gender-balance insensitivity, either. Both his campaign and administration have been described as decidedly fraternal, with anecdotes that include him telling Hilary Clinton she was "likable enough" and reports of female staffers being left out of strategic discussions.

The White House was certainly sensitive to the charge. Obama publicly invited a top female staffer to partake in one of his golf outings and aides pushed back hard against the most recent "boys-culture" accusations, as leveled in Ron Suskind's book "Confidence Men." The campaign, meanwhile, hired two prominent female operatives -- Jen O'Malley Dillon and Julianna Smoot -- to serve as deputy campaign managers.

Compared to Obama for America, the ranks of GOP field are noticeably thin when it comes to women staffers. Yet, Republican women who work or previously worked on presidential campaigns bristled at the notion that there is any kind of gender bias going on in the campaign hiring process.

"It would be great if there was a woman running one of the presidential campaigns, but the pool of women who are both experienced enough and able to do it is significantly smaller than pool of men, and that's a challenge women face in any industry," Sara Taylor Fagen told HuffPost. "I did pretty well and rose pretty far, but I didn't feel it had anything to do with my gender, ever. I worked really hard, I delayed having relationships with people and settling down, and getting married, too."

Matalin said opportunities for women in campaigns have risen dramatically since the Reagan-Bush era, when she says "women were not allowed to wear pant suits in the White House."

"I contended then, and do still today, that campaigns are the single most egalitarian environment for women in the work force. You either can perform, or you are out -- there is only merit in campaigns," Matalin told HuffPost. "My experience has been the ostensible paucity of women in professional and now long-running campaigns has more to do with their not choosing that lifestyle."

Alice Stewart, Bachmann's spokeswoman, said she thinks it's coincidental that Bachmann's campaign staff is male-dominated.

"It's just a matter of fact that each candidate has a lot of people coming to them seeking employment, and I can only speak for Michele and Mike Huckabee, but they look at the talent pool they have and the people they know and trust, and they hire someone based on experience and knowledge and level of maturity," Stewart said. "And given that we're on the road 24/7, it has to be someone you get along with, so that's a big factor too. I can't imagine any candidate bringing someone on or discounting someone because of their sex."

R.C. Hammond, Gingrich's press secretary, wrote to the HuffPost Monday, "I believe there are more women on our SC team than men" -- referring to the state of South Carolina.

But women's rights advocates believe the gender breakdown of the current candidates' campaign staffs might reflect their overall attitude towards women. They cited the allegations of sexual harassment being leveled at Herman Cain, who also recently made a sexist comment about House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in a national debate.

Rick Perry associated his wife with household chores while campaigning in August. "This shirt has a few wrinkles in it; it's not my wife's fault," he said.

Michele Bachmann generated controversy by announcing in a 2006 speech that she was "submissive" to her husband, and she introduced a bill in October that could force a woman to have a physically uncomfortable "transvaginal" ultrasound procedure before consenting to an abortion.

Paul, Cain, Bachmann, Gingrich and Romney have all said they would defund Planned Parenthood, which provides breast exams and other basic preventative care to over 830,000 women per year.

Santorum voted for the "family cap" and the "illegitimacy cap," which would have financially penalized low-income women for having children and states for children born out of wedlock. And all of the candidates support cutting programs like Social Security and Medicare, which disproportionately serve and employ women.

Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, said she thinks the GOP candidates have deliberately created a "chillier climate for women."

"What I think we're seeing now in Republican presidential candidates is that this relentless war against women seems to have had the effect of moving them along the spectrum into being much more willing to embrace policies that hurt women, and much less likely to notice, 'Geez, we don't have any women in our leadership positions.'"

O'Neill said she was also troubled by the candidates' response to Cain's "Princess Nancy" comment last week.

"Look at the reaction, or non-reaction, from the other candidates to Herman Cain's really outrageously misogynist comments about Nancy Pelosi," she said. "Excuse me, but why didn't they call him out? Were they deaf? They didn't hear the misogynist attack, or are they in sympathy with this macho 'trash the women' attitude?"

The Huffington Post called several female campaign staffers, in addition to reaching out to all the Republican presidential campaigns. None of the candidates' spokespeople, besides Alice Stewart and R.C. Hammond, responded immediately to requests for comment Monday.

The perception that some Republicans hold a negative attitude toward women is also being reflected in the polls.

According to a recent CBS News poll, 38 percent of women said Cain's sexual harassment charges would make them less likely to back him. Cain's support among women dropped from 28 percent in October to 15 percent now.

Support from female voters has dropped among other GOP candidates as well.

Romney's support among Republican women voters dropped from 19 to 16 percent over the past month, and Bachmann has historically fared better among conservative men than women in the polls.

President Obama, by contrast, is relying heavily on the woman vote for his reelection. He receives a much larger percentage of campaign cash from women donors than any GOP candidate. When asked in a recent survey who they trust more to do a better job creating jobs, women chose Obama over congressional Republicans by a 45 to 37 margin, and an October Gallup poll showed that 48 percent of women approved of Obama's job performance, compared with 39 percent of men.

It's clear that the Democratic Party has a stronger history than the GOP of employing, electing and polling better among women. Whether the current crop of GOP candidates has a particular problem with women is a different question.

"I completely don't buy the premise that the Republican field is anti-woman," Fagen said. "This is not a family friendly industry for anyone."

CORRECTION: Jen O'Malley Dillon and Julianna Smoot were hired as deputy campaign managers by the Obama campaign at the beginning of his reelection campaign in the spring of 2011. While the hires did help dispel the image of a president relying on male-dominated staffs, it is inaccurate to suggest -- as an earlier version of this article did -- that the women were hired in response to this image.

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