As my regular readers know, I believe that the 2010 "Year of the Republican Woman" was a bust, and a huge missed opportunity for the GOP. Others disagree with me. OK -- now what next?
The 2012 Presidential race is not going to say much on the topic -- Michelle Bachmann will run, and we'll see how that goes. At the US House level it will be interesting to see whether the 2010 hoopla encourages more and better Republican women to run in 2012, but it's too early to tell. Also, there will probably be minimal opportunities there in 2012 -- you've got incumbent Republicans running again in most competitive districts.
But the US Senate -- where even with the addition of Kelly Ayotte and the survival of Lisa Murkowski, the GOP has just 5 women, one of whom is retiring in 2012 -- will be an interesting test. There are already 8 known open seats; another 17 Democratic incumbents who need a GOP opponent -- several of them vulnerable; and at least three incumbent Republicans likely to have primary opponents (Snowe of Maine, Lugar of Indiana, and Heller of Nevada).
Senate races being what they are, the fields are already starting to form, particularly in the more winnable contests. And so far, there's not much indication of Republican women flooding the field.
But there are a few. Former congresswoman Heather Wilson is trying again, in another New Mexico open seat race; she was the favorite for the nomination in '08 but lost the primary. Sarah Steelman, after getting elbowed out in a 2010 primary, is running to take on Claire McCaskill in Missouri -- but congressman Todd Akin has now decided to run, and he'll be the favorite. Elizabeth Ames Jones is a solid candidate in Texas, to succeed Kay Bailey Hutchison, but she'll be in a tough primary.
Outside of that, there are a couple of Tea Party activists running in Pennsylvania and Virginia, and that's about it that I know of.
There are a couple of other strong possibilities: Shelly Moore Capito could run in West Virginia, and Linda Lingle might in Hawaii. Linda McMahon might go for the Connecticut seat.
But mostly we're seeing men as the early favorites, particularly for the open or vulnerable-Dem seats: Flake in Arizona, Berg in North Dakota, Allen in Virginia, Thompson in Wisconsin, Haridopolous and LeMieux in Florida, Rehberg in Montana, and so on. Of course it's still early; I'll be watching.