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Women Candidates Face High Standards

"The enthusiasm from women was phenomenal. There were people who criticized, but there were a lot of women who thought to themselves 'If she can do it, so can I,'" she said.

Nowadays, women make up the majority of the electorate, and there are varying theories on how gender translates to election results.

Ellie Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, said the gender gap explains in some polls why Clinton has the lead.

"When it comes down to it, women want change, they want more women candidates," she said. "Women get a boost from women voters, the edge has only gotten bigger. Being a woman is one of her biggest assets."

Regardless of how the vote plays out, Clinton must portray several images in her campaign. She announced her candidacy from her living room, a move that virtually invited prospective voters into her home. She has won praise from top military officials who say she has a firm grasp of wartime needs and strategy.

She has also launched a nationwide outreach to women voters and was one of the sponsors of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would close the wage gap between women and men.

"If you look in the dictionary, the word feminist means someone who believes in equal rights for women in society, in the economy, the political process _ generally believes in the equality of women. And I certainly believe in the equality of women," Clinton said recently.

Clinton adviser Ann Lewis said female candidates are viewed in a more personal way by voters. "For the candidate, that can be frustrating, especially when they want voters to pay attention to ideas and agendas," she said.

The way to change the cultural perception of women is simply to get more elected, Wilson said.

"Because it's normal to see men running for something like the presidency," she said, "we don't look at things like their hair, hemlines" and spouses.


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