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The GOP Smeared the First Female Veep Choice. Will History Repeat Itself?

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Thirty-six years after Geraldine Ferraro became the first woman named to a major party ticket, we have a chance as a country to get it right, not just the outcome but the process itself. California Senator Kamala Harris is not a surprise out-of-the-box pick like Ferraro, a congresswoman from Queens. And there’s no expectation that it’s all on her—the way it was for Ferraro—to shake up the campaign and bring Joe Biden across the finish line.  

The former vice president is doing fine in the polls, thank you. Harris is an added benefit, not the Hail Mary pass Ferraro was when another former vice president, Walter Mondale, made her his running mate at a time when he trailed Ronald Reagan badly. 

The Reagan campaign in 1984 was blindsided by Ferraro. It had no opposition research on her, and the team was completely undone by the prospect of running against a woman. Pollster Richard Wirthlin hurriedly put together a poll that revealed the land mines ahead. Even questioning Ferraro’s credentials would invite a furious backlash from women, widening the gender gap that was seen as Reagan’s Achilles Heel.  

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