Atrios and Ezra don't think Hillary and her team are playing the gender card. Atrios thinks the idea's "absurd" while Ezra, who is slightly more agnostic on the topic, thinks "the men doth protest too much." (Is that right grammatically? My Jacobean English is rusty.)
Atrios and Ezra are wrong.
Immediately after the debate, it was clear to me that some people - Hillary supporters and others - had picked up on the idea that this was a "boys vs. girls" issue. Taylor Marsh's "Russert and the boys attack Hillary" post - and the meme behind it - got a lot of media play. I thought the whole approach was a lame and partisan pro-Hillary move that undercuts feminism, but it didn't seem to be coming from the Hillary camp itself. In fact, I specifically said that I thought Hillary had too much self-respect to play that kind of "gender card."
I was mistaken, as became obvious within hours. Here's what Ezra and Atrios/Duncan are discounting:
1. Hillary's Wellesley speech about the Presidency as "boy's club," which Ezra mentions but accepts as simple truth (which it is - but nothing happens in a vacuum in politics.)
2. Mark Penn's comment that he was "detecting some backlash" among women voters because all those men went after Hillary.
3. Hillary's "politics of pile on" video
4. The "one strong woman" language, which the campaign provided to both Patti Solis Doyle and AFSCME's Gerald McEntee
There's more - the boxing gloves, etc. - but this is enough activity within three days to form a distinct pattern. The Clinton campaign is clearly hoping that she can draw on the same reaction that she got during the Rick Lazio debate, when he got in her face and the backlash hurt him. But Edwards, Obama, and the others aren't Rick Lazio, and they didn't do anything rude or obnoxious.
What she really wants is to insulate herself from strong debate using, yes, a "gender card." I don't blame her, really - though I think she's overusing the "politics of division" and hurting her party. Others don't have to agree with me on that. But it's surprising to me that Duncan and Ezra can deny she's tactically using gender after a week like this one.
(UPDATE: Sen. Clinton's backing off now and saying that her opponents went after her because she's the front-runner, not because she's a woman. So her surrogates - and she herself at Wellesley - send one message, then send a different one to counter the backlash. It remains to be seen if she can have this one both ways. Maybe she can.)