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First female president or vice president near-certain come 2016

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One way or another, there’s likely to be a woman in the White House in 2017.

With Hillary Clinton as the Democrats’ heavy favorite, Republicans will be feeling pressure over the next year to pick a woman as their No. 2.

{mosads}That combination atop the major party tickets would assure that for the first time in history, there would be either a female president or a female vice president.

Both parties have tried before — Democrats made history first with New York Rep. Geraldine Ferraro as their nominee for vice president in 1984. But that didn’t stop President Reagan’s reelection rout of the Ferraro ticket with Walter Mondale.  

Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) pick of then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008 seemed significant at first like it might turn things around. It didn’t. Her missteps ended up hurting McCain’s bid and Barack Obama became the nation’s first black president.

Republicans have a much deeper, more experienced bench eight years later. With Clinton signaling in recent speeches she will embrace the historic nature of her candidacy this time around  — something she was hesitant to do in 2008 — Republicans are going to have to find a way to counter that advantage and the yawning gender gap.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez seems to check all the boxes the GOP needs checked — the Latina was just reelected handily. She’s downplayed any national aspirations, but party elders can be very convincing.

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina has been proving exactly why the GOP needs a woman on the ticket to balance out Clinton.

The GOP’s biggest problem over the past few cycles has been figuring out both how to talk to, and about, women. In recent years, male politicians tripped badly over questions about rape, abortion and sexual assault.

According to 2012 exit polling, GOP nominee Mitt Romney lost women by 11 points nationally, 55 to 44 percent. Women made up 53 percent of the presidential electorate that year.

How to deftly criticize Clinton without it backfiring is something the all-male GOP presidential front-runners will have to figure out too. Yet, Fiorina could provide them cover — and she’s already been embracing the role of attack dog in a way that men can’t.

Her major speeches at the Iowa Freedom Forum and last month’s Conservative Political Action Conference have caused the GOP establishment class to take notice. She’s a long way from breaking into the top tier of the likely 2016 field, but she’s far improved her standing since her heavily criticized 2010 California Senate run.

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte would be high up on the GOP’s wish list, but she has her own competitive 2016 reelection to worry about. Ayotte is allowed to run for the Senate and the White House simultaneously. Given the ferocity with which outside groups like Crossroads GPS are already going after her likely opponent, Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, it’s unlikely the GOP would risk a competitive Senate seat when the upper chamber is at risk.

Nikki Haley, the Indian-American governor of South Carolina, will also likely be talked about and handily won a contested reelection race last year. But she’s currently dealing with a lawsuit against the state’s embattled foster care system.

A dream candidate would be former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice — an African-American female who would neutralize many of Clinton’s foreign policy and gender advantages. But she’s shown little interest in elective office since leaving the George W. Bush administration, most recently passing on a California Senate run.

There could be other long shots in the mix, too. Freshman Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst is skyrocketing to fame after her 2014 win, delivering this year’s State of the Union rebuttal. She’ll have major influence in her home state caucuses. The Iraq combat veteran would bring military heft to a ticket, though critics would attack her lack of experience.

Less well-known names like West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito or House GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers could also be considered; both would add years of legislative heft to the ticket.

The good news for Republicans is that the GOP bench is deeper than it ever has been.

It may not just be Republicans who are eyeing female vice president, though. I’ve heard speculation among both Democrats and Republicans that Clinton could pick a female running mate to bolster an already historic ticket.

To satiate a progressive Democratic base, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren would be an obvious pick. Clinton is viewed with skepticism by the left, and a Clinton-Warren ticket would allay some concerns. However, there would be drawbacks of such a one-two combination. Warren could run the risk of overshadowing the top of the ticket. In addition, they both represent, or have represented, blue states in the Northeast.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand would be another top contender, but two New Yorkers on the same ticket has risks.

Meanwhile, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar has presidential aspirations, but won’t run against Clinton. She has made trips to neighboring Iowa and could also be in the mix.

If Clinton gets the nomination, as expected, 2016 will already be the year of the woman for Democrats, no matter who her running mate is.

But for Republicans, picking a woman may quickly become a political necessity.

This post was updated at 1:49 p.m.

Tags Amy Klobuchar Barack Obama Cathy McMorris Rodgers Elizabeth Warren Hillary Clinton John McCain Kelly Ayotte Kirsten Gillibrand Shelley Moore Capito
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