Hillary Clinton may feel like the press hounds and harasses her, but there’s one segment of the media from which she’s getting the kind of coverage you just can’t buy: women’s magazines.
Better known for features like “10 ways to flatten your tummy” and lush fashion spreads, the magazines have been hiring well-connected Washington women lately in the hopes that having an inside political track will position them for could be a historic White House run.
They’ve also ramped up their interest in politics, delving into hot-button issues like abortion rights and gay marriage and profiling members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. But a POLITICO review of several of the magazines’ past few months of coverage suggests that readers will be getting a heavy dose of liberal cheerleading this campaign season along with their skincare, makeup and fashion tips.
“We’re thrilled that Hillary is in the race,” said Marie Claire Editor-in-Chief Anne Fulenwider, whose May issue included an entire section on the women who run Washington. “We’d love to see a woman president for the United States.”
Clinton, a fashionista in her own right who counted herself among famed designer Oscar de la Renta’s friends, already has a natural home among women’s magazines and their mostly liberal audiences. But the reporting and writing often veers beyond alignment and into outright boosterism — if not of Clinton herself, then of Democrats and the progressive causes they identify with.
Take Vogue. In the past few months, the magazine — whose fabled editor, Anna Wintour, is an unabashed Clinton fan and has even taken her shopping — has featured John Kerry, a book about the first lady, and a feature on the first gay male White House social secretary, Jeremy Barnard. Clinton was the first first lady to appear on the magazine’s cover and has appeared in the magazine at least seven times.
“I can only hope that all of you here in Little Rock will be celebrating her come November 2016,” Wintour said as she introduced Clinton at an event in Arkansas in 2013. “Just as all of us, all of us at Vogue, look forward to putting on the cover the first female president of the United States.”
Elle has seen perhaps the most Clinton action in its pages recently, with a Gucci-clad Chelsea gracing the cover the same week her mother announced her candidacy — a coincidence, Editor-in-Chief Robbie Myers said — along with several online articles on everything from how Clinton’s inner circle is dominated by women to “12 Times Hillary Clinton showed us exactly who she is” (“brave, feminist, and unapologetic”).
It’s enough to make Republicans scream.
“I just hope that these editors, which in my experience tend to be very liberal women, can take their blinders off and can see that there are lots of conservative issues women can embrace and lots of conservative women who can be celebrated,” said Katie Packer Gage, a top campaign aide for Mitt Romney’s failed 2012 presidential bid.
The magazines don’t ignore the GOP. Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, Reps. Elise Stefanik, Martha McSally, Martha Roby and Jaime Herrera Beutler have all been featured in print or online over the past few months. In previous years, Vogue has written about Laura Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Nikki Haley, Sarah Palin, Rand Paul and other Republicans. And as the cycle gets moving, more GOP women will probably be covered. But you’re not likely to see articles defending the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, or arguments against federal regulations requiring equal pay for women.
Of all the top women’s magazines, Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire cover politics most intensely — both host stand-alone politics sections on their websites. Cosmopolitan has a full-time politics writer; last October, Cosmo announced a get-out-the-vote campaign and even began endorsing candidates (though Editor Joanna Coles said the endorsements would be limited to the midterms). Marie Claire has hired former White House deputy chief of staff Alyssa Mastromonaco and former Jill Biden aide Courtney O’Donnell as contributors, while Glamour hired Giovanna Gray Lockhart, a former aide to Sen. Kristen Gillibrand and wife to former Clinton White House press secretary Joe Lockhart.
Coles, whose recent issue includes a feature on female senators, has been perhaps the most vocal about only backing candidates who are abortion-rights supporters and favor equal pay and mandatory insurance coverage for contraception. But she was actually a bit more subdued about Clinton, saying that while “there’s a lot of excitement” about the former secretary of state among Cosmo readers, there’s also some anxiety over her perceived inevitability.
“It’s incredibly interesting to us watching the first female presidential candidate with a real shot,” Coles said in an interview. “I don’t think we think that differently from rest of media on this, but the fact she has been the first women running as president really seriously with a serious shot is very interesting, as a moment of history.”