Trump Losing Support From Republican Women
Donald Trump’s campaign has reached the point where he is bleeding support from virtually every demographic group, but few seem to be causing as much consternation for his campaign as the loss of support among Republican women:
Of all the tribulations facing Donald J. Trump, perhaps none is stirring as much anxiety inside his campaign as the precipitous decline of support from Republican women, an electoral cornerstone for the party’s past nominees that is starting to crumble.
In a striking series of defections, high-profile Republican women are abandoning decades of party loyalty and vowing to oppose Mr. Trump, calling him emotionally unfit for the presidency and a menace to national security.
But even more powerfully, his support from regular Republican women is falling after Mr. Trump’s provocative remarks about everything from the silence of the mother of a slain Muslim soldier to how women should respond to sexual harassment in the workplace.
“For people like me, who are Republican but reasonable and still have our brains attached, it’s hard to see Trump as a reasonable, sane Republican,” said Dina Vela, a project manager in San Antonio who said she had always voted Republican and remained wary of Hillary Clinton. But to her own surprise, she has started visiting Mrs. Clinton’s campaign website and plans to vote for her.
Since the two parties held their nominating conventions, Mr. Trump’s lead over Mrs. Clinton with Republican women voters has declined by 13 percentage points, according to polls conducted by The New York Times and CBS News.
In late July, 72 percent of Republican women said they would vote for Mr. Trump, a healthy majority, but far below the level won by the past three Republican presidential nominees. In 2012, Mitt Romney won 93 percent of Republican women. In 2008, John McCain won 89 percent, and four years earlier, George W. Bush won 93 percent.
In politically moderate swing states like Pennsylvania, which aides to Mr. Trump say are crucial to his victory, Mr. Trump’s standing with women over all is perilously low among registered voters: Just 27 percent of women back him, compared with 58 percent for Mrs. Clinton, according to a poll by Franklin & Marshall College.
Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, said that Mr. Trump’s divisive and combative tactics, which seem to have intensified since he secured the Republican nomination, were amplified in the eyes and ears of the nation’s female voters.
In an interview on Tuesday, Ms. Walsh cited a controversy Mr. Trump had set off just moments before, when he seemed to suggest that gun owners who care about the Second Amendment take action against Mrs. Clinton if she is elected. Democrats immediately denounced his remarks as a reckless invitation to his supporters to commit violence.
“That kind of rhetoric is inflammatory, and I think we are seeing that women in particular have a real problem with it,” Ms. Walsh said.
Alarm over Mr. Trump’s temperament crosses demographic lines. But decades of social science research about gender and politics suggests that women have a unique perspective on government and its leaders that frequently diverges from men’s — a view, Ms. Walsh said, grounded in their longer life expectancy, their lower pay and their expectation that government will play a meaningful role in their lives.
This dynamic, she said, is reflected in the number of women who vote. Four years ago, about 10 million more women voted than men, the Rutgers center found.
For Mrs. Clinton, the alienation of Republican women from Mr. Trump creates a rare opportunity to capture a coveted demographic. But it poses a dilemma as well.
Skeptical liberals are already looking for signs of betrayal from Mrs. Clinton, making it dangerous for her to make overt or ideological appeals to Republican women. Instead, she is making her case to them by emphasizing kitchen-table issues like job creation and by raising doubts about Mr. Trump’s temperament.
Tellingly, her campaign recently released a commercial in eight swing states aimed at mothers. The ad, which featured cross-legged children watching Mr. Trump’s most controversial statements on their home televisions, ominously asked: “Our children are watching. What example will we set for them?”
Democrats acknowledge that, in the end, Mr. Trump may repel Republican women as much as Mrs. Clinton attracts them.
“I really think it’s fueled by an anti-Trump vote,” said Tracy Sefl, a Democratic strategist. “But that’s fine with me, and I’m pretty sure that’s fine with the campaign.”
Mr. Trump draws his deepest support from white men, especially those without a college degree. But he has alienated a growing number of white women, especially those with college degrees, surveys have found. Mrs. Clinton is now leading in that demographic.
“What Trump is doing has never been done before: He is losing college-educated white women,” said Stuart Stevens, Mr. Romney’s chief strategist in 2012 and a critic of Mr. Trump’s campaign.
The danger for Mr. Trump is that the erosion could accelerate as leading Republican women publicly break with him, making an argument that the national interest must supersede party loyalty.
In what has turned into a steady drip, prominent Republican women from the worlds of business and politics have been publicly renouncing Mr. Trump over the past few weeks. Among them: Senator Susan Collins of Maine; Sally Bradshaw, a top aide and strategist to Jeb Bush when he was governor of Florida; and Maria Comella, a former top adviser to Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey.
“We’re Republicans, she’s a Democrat, but the policy disagreements we have are far outweighed by the danger that Donald Trump poses to America,” said Jennifer Pierotti Lim, a lifelong Republican and an executive at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who has pledged her support to Mrs. Clinton and spoke at the Democratic National Convention.
After Meg Whitman, the chief executive of Hewlett Packard Enterprise and a prominent Republican fund-raiser, declared her allegiance to Mrs. Clinton and her disgust for Mr. Trump, her email inbox was flooded with messages of support — not from Democrats, but from fellow Republicans.
Trump’s campaign is at the point where he can hardly afford to lose support from any group at this point, of course, but the fact that Republican women, whether its prominent GOP donors and politicians like Meg Whitman and Susan Collins or ordinary women who have been reliable Republican voters in the past, are starting to repudiate him and either get behind Hillary Clinton or simply state that they will not be supporting him. In no small part this is because women are generally more likely to come to the polls than men, so a failure to garner sufficient support from Republican women arguably means more than whatever level of support Trump may have among men because every voter that stays home or votes for Clinton makes it that much harder for Trump to get the votes he needs to overcome what is looking more and more like a Clinton surge that may well become too large for Trump to overcome in the next 90-odd days before the General Election.
Going forward, if this defection of Republican women continues it could have a serious impact on the outcome of the election in several important states, and could cause Trump to lose states that Mitt Romney won rather easily four years ago, For example, in Virginia, which already appears as though it may be out of battleground status for this election in any case, would almost certainly seem to be out of Trump’s grasp if he has in fact lost significant support among suburban married women, a group that has tended to vote Republican in significant numbers in recent elections. Other states that would likely be at risk for Trump without more solid support from Republican women include Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia, states where polls have indicated he is already in trouble. The fact that the most significant motivation for this loss of support among such an important demographic group seems to be Trump’s own mouth, the odds that he can repair the damage that he’s already created seem fairly low. Indeed, the best that his campaign can probably hope for is that he somehow able to stop the bleeding and go at least a week or two without saying things that cause people to denounce him and get turned off by his rhetoric. Of course, as we learned yesterday, that’s kind of like asking the sun not to rise in the morning. Expect this to get worse before it gets better.