The above title would make for a good opening for a joke, but the race for the presidency is not a punchline….unless, of course, Bill Clinton becomes the First Gentleman. Should that happen, I am sure he won’t be handing out cigars.
The 2016 election is shaping up to be a contest among many contenders. Breaking glass ceilings could be done by either Hillary Clinton or Carly Fiorina, and as Hillary would like you to believe, she has the women’s vote in her back pocket. As she should. The women’s vote has been elusive to any GOP contender since Ronald Reagan, as he was the last Republican nominee to break “The Gender Gap.” Reagan understood, and is supported by various studies, that women do not vote for gender, women vote for a leader who they can trust.
Likewise, according to Rasmussen, 56% of women see candidates’ spouses as important to their vote. For the first time in history, women may be influenced not only one, but two First Gentlemen. Hillary and Carly will have to have their husbands take a more public role in their campaigns. Historically, first ladies have been termed the “secret weapons” of the campaign trail. These secret weapons can and do shrink the gender gap because they provide additional confidence and raise the level of trust a voter may have in the candidate. But, can Bill Clinton provide that bridge of trust that Hillary desperately needs while scandals, mistruths, missteps, and lawsuits continue to build against her this early in the campaign? Would women trust Bill Clinton again in the White House? Do women trust Hillary? According to her poll numbers, No. We don’t.
Hillary has created a vacuum as she continues on her campaign trail without speaking to the press or answering questions. As she remains silent, the questions, much like the scandals, continue to grow in number. During this awkward silence, a handful of GOP contenders have thrown their hat and their spouses into the campaign ring. How these secret weapons will help craft their spouses story on the trail remains to be seen, but for now, this is what we know:
Frank Fiorina: Started out as a tow truck driver in Pennsylvania, but eventually worked his way up the corporate ladder at AT&T where he met and then married Carly. They have been married for 30 years. He retired from AT&T at the age of 48 to support her during her travels and as a body guard during her senatorial campaign. He also helps take care of their two daughters from a previous marriage. When asked what he wants to do as first gentleman, he replied, “Just like Carly, I want to do something that adds value.”
Jeanette Dousdebes Rubio: Daughter of Columbian immigrants. Former Miami Dolphins cheerleader. Met Marco at a neighborhood party at the age of 17. Mothers and raises 4 children. Is known for being apolitical but principled. Human trafficking and early childhood education are the causes that she has demonstrated great interest in as a Senator’s wife. She works part time for the Braman Foundation. Norman Braman has hired Marco Rubio as his lawyer and has been a supporter of Rubio’s state and national campaign.
Heidi Cruz: Graduated from Harvard Business School. Met Ted in DC while they both worked on GW Bush’s 2000 campaign, and after the winning election, secured a position on the National Security Council under Condoleeza Rice. She is a Managing Director at Goldman Sachs in Houston. A business woman and working mom of two young daughters until she took a leave of absence to support Ted on the campaign trail.
Kelley J. Ashby Paul: Referred to as the “secret weapon” and “secret asset” of her husband’s campaign by Vogue magazine. Met Randy Paul at a backyard oyster roast in Atlanta. Didn’t think that the name Randy fit so she started calling him Rand. Rand stuck. Married in 1991. Mother of 3 boys aged 14-21. Worked as a political consultant and had Ted Cruz as a client. Published her first book in April entitled, “True and Constant Friends.”
Candy Carson: A Yale graduate and concert violinist. Candy met Ben at Yale and married in 1979. Mothered 3 sons and is a grandmother of 2. Candy leads the efforts of the Carson Scholars Fund, which has recognized more than 6,000 scholars and installed over 100 Ben Carson Reading Rooms and is inspired by their mission to maximize the intellectual potential of every child.
Columba Bush: Born and raised in Mexico in a farming family. For Jeb, it was love at first sight when he spotted her in 1971 in a car with her sister. They married in 1973 and have raised 3 children. Domestic Violence is a key policy issue as the First Lady of Florida. She would make history as the First Latina in the White House.
All of these secret weapons have great resumes. Some maybe better than others. But facing a potential $2 billion campaign as promised by Hillary, these secret weapons can only be best activated when their spouses continually demonstrate the tenacity to make their ideas and questions heard. This vacuum that Hillary has created is a wide-open playing field for the right candidate. For the many questions that remain unanswered will have to be answered, whether on the campaign trail or during one of the few debates. Trust isn’t built on the unknowns, but leaders can arise, and build trust, from the most unlikely of places and positions–as the Fiorina’s have demonstrated both personally and professionally.
Therefore, if Hillary’s “trustworthy” poll numbers hold in the low 20’s, Carly may be the one to shatter glass ceilings and Bill’s opportunity to evolve from the first black president to the First Gentleman will be swept up with the shards.