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She the People
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Posted at 09:09 AM ET, 01/30/2012

Lousy campaign year for daughters, wives, female donors

DALLAS — My teenage daughter, looking to head off another boring dinner table conversation, stared me in the eye and said, “My friends know more about the Kardashians than about who is running for
U.S. Republican presidential candidate former Utah governor Jon Huntsman with his daughter Gracie Mei. (Brian Snyder - Reuters)
president.’’

It was a zinger, but it was also true. (And not just because Khloe Kardashian recently moved to Dallas to be with her pro basketball player husband, Lamar Odom.)

My 16-year-old and her friends can’t name the presidential candidates or explain the fuss over say, Bain Capital, or Newt Gingrich’s second ex-wife.

Yet last week the same group of kids was fully convinced that the federal government was bordering on censorship with the Internet piracy bills that Wikipedia, Google and other new media so successfully opposed.

What those experiences tell me is that her age group has instant access to information, but sees no relevance in the presidential campaign. And frankly, I’m not sure that I blame them.

It’s been a particularly rotten campaign season for women, and rough on political daughters.

Before former Utah governor and ambassador to China Jon Huntsman dropped out, the daughters he and wife Mary Kaye adopted — Gracie Mei from China and Asha from India — were cruelly targeted by a group supporting rival Ron Paul.

An online ad “NHLiberty4Paul’’ shows photos of Huntsman’s adopted daughters and asks “American values, or Chinese?’’ Huntsman is also called the “Manchurian’’ candidate in the ad, which Paul disavowed.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because Republican Sen. John McCain’s adopted daughter came under similar attack when he ran for president in 2000. An automated phone call smear campaign claimed that he’d fathered a black child out of wedlock, an apparent reference to an adopted daughter who was born in Bangladesh.

McCain’s wife, Cindy, expressed her outrage about the Huntsman attack this year. “I deeply resent the video made using the adopted daughters of @jonhuntsman,’’ she wrote on Twitter. “@ronpaul shame on you. This has shades of 2000 all over it.’’

Gracie Mei Huntsman, now 12, was found abandoned in a vegetable market in China at 6 months old, and Asha, now 6, was abandoned in a field in India the day she was born.

Older daughters, however, are expected to fend for themselves in politics, and sometimes for their parents. When Newt Gingrich was fielding questions about his second wife’s claims that he asked for an “open marriage,’’ his campaign offered two adult daughters from a
Gloria Cain with her husband, Herman Cain, as he announces his run as a GOP candidate for president in Atlanta. (David Goldman - AP)
previous marriage to defend his reputation.

Wives haven’t fared too well, either. The once high-flying candidacy of pizza executive Herman Cain was felled by allegations of sexual harassment and infidelity. The collapse of his campaign followed separate public appearances by women who alleged, in detail, the sexual nature of the contact they had with Cain.

In the end, Cain pinned his decision on whether he’d stay in the race on his wife, Gloria Cain, who appeared at his said, smiling and waving, as he announced he was suspending his campaign.

Yet when a woman made one of the single largest financial contributions of this entire primary season, she barely got a mention. In fact, the first report of a $5 million donation from Miriam Adelson in the Las Vegas Sun, barely mentioned her name at all.

It said “Gondolier Numero Uno Sheldon Adelson, through his wife, will give Newt Gingrich’s SuperPAC another $5 million, a source close to Adelson confirmed today.’’

Through his wife? Miriam Adelson is a practicing physician. Her husband is a Las Vegas gambling billionaire.

Maybe there is more mileage in being the wife of a pro athlete. Khloe Kardashian just announced that she got her own radio show. It’s called the Mix Up with Khloe Kardashian Odom and it starts today.

Lori Stahl is a Texas journalist. Follow her on Twitter at @LoriStahl.

By  |  09:09 AM ET, 01/30/2012

Tags:  Jon Huntsman, Mary Kaye Huntsman, Ashta Huntsman, Gracie Mei Huntsman, Khloe Kardashian, Mix Up with Khloe Kardashian Odom, Cindy McCain, John McCain, Ron Paul, Gloria Cain, Herman Cain, GOP primary, sexual harassment, Cain affairs, Cain harassment, Miriam Adelson, Newt Gingrich, Marianne Gingrich, Callista Gingrich, Lamar Odom, Internet piracy, Sheldon Adelson

 
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