Women voters matter, as this NPR blog post says. And “women will stay undecided about their vote longer than men.... [T]hey won’t base it on a party line vote, but much more on a likability factor.”
As a woman, that quote makes me wince. I don’t know whether women are actually liable to weight likability over party affiliation. (I know a lot of women with staunch party affiliations, and for them party is the first factor in likability.) But the word “likability” sounds diminutive. It dismisses the value of assessing a candidate’s character.
What's more, as NPR points out, likability (if we have to call it that) means different things to women in different stages of their life. To the unattached, it might mean Someone They Can Believe In. To mothers, it might mean Someone Committed to Solving Problems. And for everyone, there's the raw seduction of identification. I was forwarded an e-mail by my aunt in which a friend of hers, who works for the Hillary campaign in California, said of Hillary: "The whole time I kept staring at her thinking 'My God! She has wrinkles and crows feet! Oh my God - she looks just like us!'" Of course, the power of identification doesn't always favor Hillary. Kim McLarin at The Root writes a thoughtful essay about why Michelle Obama makes her swoon for Barack, which includes: "She reminds me of my sister Michelle. She looks like me."
My aunt, a Francophile originally from the Midwest, is a case study in how identification can be about exclusion, too. She told me, "I remember in the early 60s I was a Young Republican and once at a rally I looked around and all the candidates were white men in suits and I thought 'these people don't look like me' and walked out. Thereafter I became a Democrat."
P.S. The woman who works for the Hillary campaign also wrote, "The whole day I had thought about asking her if she would consider making Barack Obama her vice-president because that's the dream team those of us in the trenches and on the fence really want to see."