Who Gives A Crap About The First Lady? (Lots Of Folks, Apparently.)

Do you judge a candidate by his or her spouse? I do, kinda.
Publish date:
March 22, 2012
electoral politics, gender politics, First Ladies

Once upon a time, I wrote for an insane website called Wonkette.The commenters there are like a pack of wild, lonely dogs, and I would regularly abuse them in a way that I would never dream of abusing the commenters here at XOJane (if only because you ladies would understandably hate it, while the weirdo liberal masochists at Wonkette loved that stuff.)

Occasionally I trot on over there to see what's doing back on the farm, to watch them till the soil and castrate the hogs or whatever. And that's how I found the post called "Voters Simply Don't Care For Callista Gingrich, Who Is Not Running For Anything." It is by Mister Jim Newell, with whom I am pictured above, drankin' in the back of a limo like all bloggers do every day.Anyway, here's what Jimbo has to say about a recent poll on potential First Ladies' likability factors:

Why do pollsters do polls about candidates’ spouses? They just sort of stand there, on the trail, smiling, and then if the candidate wins they may launch some benign PR initiative, like recommending good nutrition and exercise for children. In other words, they poll candidates’ spouses because they’re extremely important figures who could end up indoctrinating our children! And Callista “Cally” Gingrich, according to the latest PPP poll, has an 18% favorability rating. It seems there’s quite a bit of jealousy out there among the 82% of American voters who haven’t had the pleasure of marrying Newt Gingrich yet.

Follow the link to the scintillating website Public Policy Polling, and you'll discover that Michelle Obama, Ann Romney and Karen Santorum are all more popular than their hubbies. And while Callista is the least popular among these ladies, she's still better-liked than her hubs.

Now, one might make the argument that it doesn't make a damned bit of difference what the American public thinks about a presidential candidate's wife. For example, Hillary Clinton was a relatively unpopular potential First Lady, and her man still made it to the Oval Office. But it seems some folks actually do care about the First Spouse. I took to Twitter, Facebook, and Formspring to find out why.

"I think I would care if their coolness outshone all the candidates on the table. Plus I would give the candidate credit for being married to that person…If they are truly disturbing or unappealing to me, it will affect my opinion of the candidate. But generally, they seem to line up with my impression of the candidate." -- Aparna, 29, Los Angeles, CA

"While I do not conciously use that as part of my decision making criteria, I would not be surprised if it had an effect. A person's spouse is likely to have some effect on their decision-making whether they are actively trying to influence them or not. Plus the person you choose to mate with must in some way reflect on who you are." -- Gretchen, 31, Milwaukee, WI

"I'm interested in the spouse's career and what they did before/during all the campaigning. Historically, the [Presidential] spouse has always been a woman, and I think it's great that there had been some amazing style icons like Jackie O. or Michelle Obama, but it's also sad that sometimes that is their biggest impact as a role model. I would be excited for the day we get a female president, but I can't imagine we would ever be drooling over how dapper the First Man's outfits were." -- Jen, 30, Brooklyn, NY

"Choice of mate speaks to character. It's a window into thought processes, standards, and self value." -- Jan, 49, Johnson City, TN

"I feel like that's a bizarre thing to worry about. Like, 'Oh, I totally support so-and-so and his political agenda serves my needs as a citizen of this fine land, but his wife is such a heifer. Pass!' I'm slightly alarmed that there are people who actually think that way." -- Soraya, age withheld, Cairo, Egypt

"My intellect says that I don't, but my gut reality is that I care very much when it's a heterosexual male candidate and not at all when it's a heterosexual female candidate. I guess the subconscious thought process is that I care very much to see how 'womanhood' (for whatever that's worth) and 'women's issues' (which really should just be human issues) are both officially and unofficially represented by and in the campaign or office." -- Deborah Haber, 37, Cambridge, MA

"I care about a political candidate's spouse because I think who you choose to hitch your wagon to says a lot about a candidate's character." -- Katie, 23, Duluth, MN

"Which one of Newt's wives am I supposed to comment on?" -- Vanessa, 38, Bridgewater, NJ

You know what to do now, gals. To the comments! Let's talk about it. I'll weigh in here and there, too. Cuz honestly, I'm with Deborah -- I wish I could claim to be different, but the truth is that I really do care about a wife more than a husband when we're talking candidates' personal lives. (Not that Dr. Marcus Bachmann isn't the love of my life, obviously.)