Jennifer Palmieri

Jennifer Palmieri. Provided

Hillary Clinton's former communications director says the double standard in the current crop of 2020 candidates is easy to spot.

The men, such as Beto O'Rourke and Pete Buttigeig, are compared to the likes of John and Bobby Kennedy, Bill Clinton or Barack Obama.

The women, meanwhile, have only one barometer: Hillary Clinton.

Female candidates "are just in a different place because they can't remind us of a leader who we've seen before," said Jennifer Palmieri, who worked for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and also inside the Bill Clinton White House.

"I don't think that means that the women can't break out later," she added.

Palmieri will be in Charleston on Tuesday promoting her 2018 book "Dear Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World." She will appear at Blue Bicycle Books, 420 King St., at 5:30 p.m.

Palmieri has been a key player in modern politics for the past two decades. Her resume includes White House communications director for Obama.

She was also national press secretary for the Democratic Party and press secretary for John Edwards' 2004 White House run.

When the 2020 race started, the early storyline emphasized the fact that so many women were in the Democratic field.

That has since been overcome by polling trends that puts white men out front.

The trend is consistent in South Carolina, where Joe Biden is preferred by 46 percent of likely S.C. Democratic primary voters, up 14 points from a month ago, according to a Post and Courier-Change Research poll released Sunday.

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Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is in second at 15 percent, with California Sen. Kamala Harris following at 10 percent.

The struggle in the current atmosphere, Palmieri said, is there still is a novelty among some in seeing women stepping up and seeking power positions.  

"At the root of that is these women are doing something different, something we haven't seen before," she said.

That doesn't mean people won't support women candidates, she said, "it just means that we carry these biases ... these models in our head of what leaders look and sound like."

The Hillary Clinton comparison is more often to their detriment, Palmieri said, and that it is often followed by the question "Is she electable?"

With more than 20 Democrats in the race, Palmieri said the race is still pretty open since voters are not ready to make their decisions this early.

"We're still in the prelims," she said. "The dynamics of this race have yet to reveal themselves fully."

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 843-937-5551. Follow him on Twitter at @skropf47.

Political Editor

Schuyler Kropf is The Post and Courier political editor. He has covered every major political race in South Carolina dating to 1988, including for U.S. Senate, governorship, the Statehouse and Republican and Democratic presidential primaries.

Political Reporter

Caitlin Byrd is a political reporter at The Post and Courier and author of the Palmetto Politics newsletter. Before moving to Charleston in 2016, her byline appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times. To date, Byrd has won 17 awards for her work.

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