Thursday, May 23, 2013

Tie your scarf like this

Senator Kay Hagan discussed the sexual assault problem in the military on the Senate floor last week. She made good use of a scarf:

This outfit would certainly work without the scarf, but it's so much better with it. The key here, as it is in many cases, is that the scarf is not tied to tightly or too carefully. It's draped asymmetrically around her neck and not tied in a firm knot. Tucking it in (a little bit) to her jacket helps hold it in place.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Classic leather

The House approved the Working Families Flexibility Act on May 8. For a press conference the day before, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers wore a leather jacket:

A leather jacket can send many different messages, depending on the style. Sarah Palin made it tough-but-feminine, Rosa DeLauro made it quirky.

In this example, Rep. McMorris Rodgers goes for an updated classic. The blazer style with buttons (as opposed to a motorcycle style with a lot of zippers) sends a preppy message, and the rich brown color is much softer than black but not as conspicuous as pink or red.

If you try this look, remember: simple shoes and a soft layer underneath.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The number one question Hillary's pollsters need to ask

It's spring in an odd-numbered year, a quiet moment in national electoral politics. Political junkies pay too much attention to special elections, and then write about what they mean, and what they don't mean, and how we shouldn't draw any conclusions from them anyway.

It's also a moment when issue groups, taking the long view of electoral politics (at least in comparison to individual candidate campaigns) begin to set the stage for the following year and the next Administration. The big news on that front this month was the Madam President initiative launched by Emily's List. It's meant to be a full-throttle push for "any" woman president, but everyone knows that in 2016 that really means Hillary Clinton.

When she runs (and I believe she will run) she will certainly have a few things to learn from the Obama campaigns in 2008 and 2012. Much fanfare has been given to the Obama use of technology and micro-targeting techniques, but it may be several decades before analysts fully unpack the dynamics of those campaigns. One book attempting to do so is The Victory Lab by Sasha Issenberg. It's an extremely well-researched deep dive into the context and mechanics of how the Obama campaigns leveraged computer technology, statistics and polling to win the day. The overused but apt comparison is Moneyball for politics. Secretary Clinton's staff will absorb these techniques and build upon them for sure.

But here's where I think it gets interesting for women: statistical models that make predictions of voting behavior based on demographic and consumer information require past behavior to create the algorithms. Whenever you have a "first" candidate, the predictive power of the model is automatically weaker. Issenberg notes that the Obama campaign in 2008 made specific changes to its polling practices and resulting predictive models to avoid what is known as the Bradley Effect, where a voter will tell a pollster s/he will vote for a minority candidate (or is undecided) when in fact the voter ends up voting for the white candidate because of race. The candidate can appear ahead in the polls but still come up short at the polling place.

As a strategy, the Obama campaign didn't seek to change the minds of these voters. Instead, they simply wanted to exclude them from the get-out-the-vote efforts, which were the heart of the campaign's strategy. Identifying these voters turned out to be remarkably simple. According to Issenberg, the pollsters began to ask, "Do you think your neighbors would be willing to vote for an African-American president?" It turned out that most of the time, behavior attributed to "the neighbors" was really the voter's own, even if they couldn't admit it.

The numbers on likelihood to vote for a woman are surely too astonishing right now: 90% say they would, and 72% say they believe it's likely a woman will win in 2016. Could it be that simple to straighten this out? Is all we need to ask, "Would your neighbors vote for a woman president?" to get a clearer picture?

I promise this is not a test, but would your neighbors vote for a woman president? Would they vote for Hillary?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Purple power

What would you wear to debate a man who is nationally known for a dramatic extramarital affair? Elizabeth Colbert Busch chose purple:

There is a really effective but subtle effect going on here: the color is feminine (no man in politics would wear a purple blazer), the cut is demure (the white blouse layered underneath makes it very modest), but at the same time it is tailored and that makes it just tough enough. Nothing about her femininity could be mistaken for weakness. It's a line that Gov. Nicki Haley also walks with success in the same state, South Carolina.

This special election is Tuesday, May 7.