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Are O'Donnell Skeptics Sexists? RINOs? Both?

Can't all us grizzlies get along?

2:40 PM, Sep 17, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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Jeri Thompson, a political commentator I admire and wife of former Sen. Fred Thompson, wrote a column for "The American Spectator" this week suggesting anyone skeptical of Christine O'Donnell is skeptical because they're sexist, boys-club types afraid of strong, anti-establishment women.

She uses Karl Rove, already RINO enemy No. 1 this week, as her example:

A strong, vocal woman upturned the political tables in Delaware, a state where both political parties have been run like blue-blooded patriarchies for the better part of half a century, and all the boys that compose "the establishment" can muster is omniscient edicts about her absolute un-electability in a general election.

Funny, I don't recall hearing similar talk from the likes of Mssrs. Rove and Cornyn after Scott Brown won in Massachusetts, Joe Miller won in Alaska, or Rand Paul won in Kentucky. In fact, despite similar sliming by the state party apparatus before Paul's victory Rove was downright supportive of him, saying on Fox News that Rand Paul could win the general election, just as he could win the primary.

In this example, Rove's history of backing Tea Party candidates is improbably turned against him simply because some of those candidates were male. He's a bit hemmed in here, isn't he? If he supports male Tea Partiers and not Christine O'Donnell, he's sexist. If he supports female establishment candidates like Kay Bailey Hutchison, he's a RINO. And, completely forgotten in the zeal to declare him both a sexist and a RINO is the fact that he's spending millions of dollars on  female Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle in Nevada.

But Rove certainly doesn't need me defending him. The only reason I bring it up is because the treatment of Rove is symbolic of the treatment of any conservative with questions about O'Donnell. O'Donnell backers' principal complaint about Rove's blunt recitation of her political problems on Fox News the night of her win is that it gave Democrats talking points with which to hurt a conservative candidate. Fair point.

What does declaring the entire GOP establishment sexist just because it didn't get behind one female candidate do? It bolsters the left's carefully crafted and effective caricature of the right as a place that doesn't welcome women. It gives Democrats a talking point, not to use against one candidate, but to use against the entire conservative movement.

And, it does it just when women voters are moving toward McDonnells and Christies, and a crop of very strong women candidates has even the mainstream media taking notice. If those who have concerns about O'Donnell are simply "intimidated by a strong woman," how do we explain support for Jane Norton, Sue Lowden, Kelly Ayotte, Linda McMahon, Martha Roby, Susanna Martinez, Nikki Haley, or Kristi Noem?

There was a Palin Effect, but it didn't inspire only women who are Sarah Palin's ideological clones, and that's fine (positive, even!). Even Sarah Palin approves. She endorsed Carly Fiorina over Tea Party favorite Chuck Devore in California. Was she a RINO then? Were Tea Partiers sexist?

Of course not. Each made a judgment call, and the Fiorina/Devore race didn't become the national litmus test for either true conservatism or hidden misogyny.

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