With the election in France of Nicolas Sarkozy as president over socialist candidate Segolene Royal, many American pundits have tried to read her defeat as a harbinger for Senator Hillary Clinton and her quest to become America's first woman president.
While there is a parallel to be drawn, this is not one of them.
The fact that a female candidate presented such a strong showing in the election -- Royal received 48% of the vote despite her lack of grounding on the issues-- demonstrates a growing acceptance for women's executive leadership. Global momentum around women leaders has been building -- in the past two years alone, we've seen Chile, Germany and Liberia choose women to lead. France strongly considered doing the same.
Many are now wondering if Royal's loss is indicative of how a woman presidential candidate might fare here at home. The connection is tempting to make, but this scenario cannot be grafted from France to America. As for the Hillary parallel, each candidate represents unique policies, and each country has its own set of barriers and opportunities for a first-time female candidate.
The one hurdle both countries have in common is the hesitancy by older women voters to support women candidates. In France, Royal only garnered 36% of women voters over 60 whereas her male opponent pulled in 64%, according to an Ipsos poll conducted on Election Day. Similarly, Hillary's support is softest among women over 60 and needs to be shored up if she is going to have a chance to occupy the Oval Office.
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