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Meghan McCain discusses Newt Gingrich, social media during visit to Columbus

While in Columbus on Tuesday, Meghan McCain called Baker High School graduate Newt Gingrich “no one on my radar” and added, “He was relevant when I was in middle school.”

Gingrich is a potential candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential race.

“He’s so irrelevant to me on the front range of candidates -- no disrespect to your local boy,” said McCain, a prominent blogger and daughter of 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain.

She called Mitt Romney the Republican front-runner for the 2012 presidential election, but emphasized, “I want to wait to see until people actually announce.”

McCain’s comments came in an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer prior to her speech at a luncheon that was part of Columbus State University’s seventh annual Women’s Leadership Conference.

“We can demand better than what this culture is giving us right now,” McCain told a crowd of nearly 200 women at CSU’s Cunningham Center for Leadership Development. “I would like a different landscape than what we have.”

McCain discussed disparities in media coverage of female versus male politicians. She cited a tendency to ask female politicians questions that wouldn’t be directed toward their male counterparts -- for example, inquiries about weight and appearance.

“I still think there’s a glass ceiling that’s left to be shattered,” McCain said, encouraging women to come together and fight back.

McCain, 26, worked on her father’s 2008 presidential campaign and blogged while on the campaign trail. She writes a column for The Daily Beast and has a Twitter account with more than 104,000 followers.

During her Tuesday appearance in Columbus, she pointed to social media’s growing power.

“Be careful what you put on the Internet,” said McCain, who in 2009 caused a brief controversy after posting a photo on Twitter that featured her in a low-cut tank top. She later apologized.

In her interview with the Ledger-Enquirer before the luncheon, McCain -- who doesn’t plan on running for office -- said social media will continue to play a role in political campaigns.

“It’s just absolutely vital to any candidate running for anything at this point,” she said. “It’s not an option anymore. You have to do it.”

She’s especially interested in the role Twitter will play in the upcoming presidential election. She pointed to the social networking tool’s emphasis on immediate gratification and said, “I’m sure some gaffes will happen as well.”

On the topic of Twitter gaffes, McCain called comedian Gilbert Gottfried’s insensitive tweets about Japan “a tasteless joke.”

“I don’t know him, but I think that Aflac probably did the right thing by letting him go,” she said.

In addition to her Internet presence, McCain expanded her following with “Dirty Sexy Politics,” a 2010 memoir that addresses her father’s presidential campaign. She also wrote a 2008 children’s book, “My Dad, John McCain.”

McCain’s comments about women resonated with members of Tuesday’s audience.

“She’s so inspiring. She’s touching on the subjects that need to be looked at,” said Elva Shoemaker, an audience member in her late 50s. She attended the event with a group of Fort Benning employees.

Kim Watson, 42, also enjoyed McCain’s speech.

“I thought she was great. I was pretty impressed,” said Watson, who attended the event with a group from TSYS.

Sonya Sorich, 706-571-8516.

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