Political analysts are predicting that the number of women in the House and Senate will drop for the first time in three decades -- a trend that belies much of the cable TV chatter over the summer touting 2010 as another political "Year of the Woman."
Women in Congress are disproportionately Democratic. So a tough year for some incumbent Democrats would upset the overall gender balance of national politics, reports USA Today's Susan Page.
Even though a record number of Democratic and Republican women ended up on the ballot this election cycle, David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report predicts that the total number of women in the House will dip by at least five. In the Senate, he predicts that the number will stay the same or fall.
Big primary wins in June for Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina and Nikki Haley led pundits to hail the next coming of 1992, when 29 women were elected to Congress as freshman lawmakers. In the 1992 cycle, women candidates gained major support partly courtesy of the 1991 Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, in which Anita Hill's allegations of sexual harassment against the nominee helped rally women voters behind liberal women running for Congress. This year, by contrast, the most prominent push for women candidates is coming from the right -- via Sarah Palin's endorsements for a slate of conservative women she called "Mama Grizzlies."
Right now, Congress is 83 percent male, 44 of 50 U.S. governors are men, and male mayors run 93 of the country's 100 largest cities, according to Jennifer Lawless, a professor of government at American University.
(Photo of Palin: AP)