As email controversy rages, Hillary Clinton courts her army — women

The bottom line on Emailgate? It won’t move the needle.

People who support Hillary Clinton are resolute. They loved her throughout the Whitewater investigation, the firings in the travel office, the selling of the Lincoln bedroom, the Benghazi inquiry and the revelations about foreign nations donating to her foundation. They loved her press conference at the U.N. this week.

Hillary is courting her army; she has indicated that this time her campaign will focus on gender. In 2008, she was advised against following that path, counsel she apparently now thinks was mistaken.

Who are these stalwarts? Women. Women who think Hillary Clinton deserves to be the next president, because she has worked so hard for so long to land that plum assignment. Women who feel Hillary is held to a higher standard, who feel sorry for her, who believe she is the perfect candidate to shatter what she has called the “highest and hardest glass ceiling.”

Hillary is courting her army; she has indicated that this time her campaign will focus on gender. In 2008, she was advised against following that path, counsel she apparently now thinks was mistaken.

Women like Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List, who says of her: “She’s more than an idol … She’s an inspiration …”

Hillary is courting her army; she has indicated that this time her campaign will focus on gender. In 2008, she was advised against following that path, counsel she apparently now thinks was mistaken.

This strategy was evident in her carefully scripted comments at the U.N. press conference. She deleted her personal emails, she said, because she wanted personal communications – about matters such as planning Chelsea’s wedding or her mother’s funeral – to remain private.

Of course they should be private, thought millions of women; women who have also planned weddings and funerals, and who have empathy for Hillary Clinton.

Here’s the problem: Women won’t get Hillary elected. While becoming the first woman president might have been a strong playing card in 2008, when she ran against the man who would become the first African-American president, the moment has passed. She can show up at another hundred women’s conferences over the next year – and it looks as though she will – but she will only be cementing the ardor of a group already in her column. What she needs is men, and in particular white men.

A Washington Post poll conducted a year ago, when she was still enjoying the afterglow of her stint as secretary of state, revealed a sizable gender gap. It showed that while women would back Clinton by a striking 61-33 percent, men would support her by a much smaller margin, 49-46 percent, or within the margin of error. As the Post noted, “That’s a 25-point gap between Clinton’s margin among women and among men.” And by far the largest gap since 1980.

More specifically, the Post reported, “non-white men and women are pretty similar when it comes to the former secretary of state, but while 58 percent of white women back Clinton, 54 percent of white men oppose her.” This polarization is not new; in 2008 a survey showed that in a match-up with John McCain, Hillary’s backing would split along similar lines.

The good news for Hillary is that, for decades, more women than men have voted in presidential elections. In the 2012 presidential contest, 81.7 million women voted, compared to 71.4 million men. This gives her a distinct advantage, unless the solidarity of women begins to crumble, or unless opposition to the Clinton ticket increases turnout among men.

Both could happen. Hillary’s feminist message seems a bit stale, especially for the younger generations, who have fewer grievances. Equal pay is the law of the land, and many of the once hot-button issues (like access to contraception) have been resolved. Some think there is actually a backlash brewing that has generated, for instance, more than 32,000 “likes” for a Facebook page called Women Against Feminism.

According to a study released last year by PayScale and Millennial Branding, women in that age group have enjoyed a narrowing of the pay gap. “ After accounting for factors like job title, experience, industry and tenure, the difference in overall median pay between men and women millennial workers is 2.2% ($51,000 vs. $49,000).” That compares to a gap of 2.7 percent for baby boomers and 3.6 percent for the Gen X crowd. Young women are especially important for Democrats like Clinton, since as men and women age they veer Republican.

Meanwhile, men could be forgiven if they are tiring of hearing about the travails of women – especially as they see females earning 60 percent of college and graduate degrees, holding 52 percent of all professional-level jobs, and enjoying lower unemployment.

Men may also resent being criticized for behavior that once was welcomed. A study by researchers at Northeastern University claims that politeness, like holding a door open for a woman, may actually express “benevolent sexism.” This kind of nonsense does not make men more sympathetic to women’s causes.

Society has focused on obstacles faced by women in recent years, and rightly so. The attention has paid off. While there remain opportunity gaps, American women have made enormous strides. This is not the case in many other countries, where there is much work to do. But Hillary wants to be the president of the U.S., not Kuwait. Her zeal is impressive, but voters may regard other issues – like jobs, tax reform, unsustainable entitlement programs and terrorism – as equally important.

A recent WSJ/NBC poll showed that 51 percent of respondents thought Hillary would represent a return to “policies of the past.” The bad news? Some 59 percent indicated they wanted change, while only 38 percent thought it was important to elect a president with considerable experience.

Hillary’s emails won’t do her in. But she could be in trouble nonetheless.

Liz Peek is a writer who contributes frequently to She is a financial columnist who also writes for The Fiscal Times. For more visit Follow her on Twitter@LizPeek.