World / Politics

Women backing Trump try to sell his message to turned-off fellow female voters


President Donald Trump’s campaign is rallying and training a corps of female defenders, mindful that Trump’s shaky standing with women could sink his hopes of re-election next year.

Female surrogates and supporters fanned out across important battlegrounds Thursday in a high-profile push to make the president’s case on the economy and to train campaign volunteers. Organizers said they believe female backers are often uncomfortable acknowledging they support Trump.

“We want to empower women with other women to be able to share the message of success of this president, to share their success under this president,” said Trump campaign spokeswoman Erin Perrine, who will be leading one of the events in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The move is a recognition of the president’s persistent deficit with women. Over the course of his presidency and across public opinion polls, women have been consistently less supportive of Trump than men. Suburban women in particular rejected Republicans in the 2018 midterm by margins that set off alarms for the party and the president.

The most recent Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll found just 30 percent of women approve of the way the president is doing his job, compared to 42 percent of men. Notably, there was no gap between Republican men and women — 80 percent of both groups said they approved of his job performance in the August poll.

Much of the campaign’s appeal to women has so far focused on highlighting economic gains since Trump’s election in 2016, a message that is especially vulnerable to a slowdown. That includes frequently pointing to the jobless rate for women, which fell to 3.4 percent in April — the lowest since 1953, even though it has since crept up to 3.7 percent.

“The president’s record speaks for itself, and it’s a record that women can feel confident voting to extend,” Trump campaign senior adviser Katrina Pierson wrote in an op-ed in The Detroit News ahead of an event in Troy, Michigan, a suburb viewed as key contested territory.

Similar events were scheduled in 13 battleground states, including Florida, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Ohio. The events, led by surrogates including counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, will try to train attendees to be volunteers and what the campaign describes as “ambassadors” for the reelection effort. Perrine said part of the goal was also to help Trump backers who may be reluctant to voice their support for him publicly feel more comfortable doing so.

She noted that, during the first quarter of the year, 51 percent of the campaign’s donors were women — a figure the campaign sees as a sign that women are more engaged.

AP VoteCast, a survey of more than 115,000 midterm voters nationwide, found that 40 percent of women voted for Republicans in last year’s congressional elections, compared to 50 percent of men. In suburban areas in particular, 38 percent of women and 49 percent of men voted for Republicans.

Trump has turned off higher-income, college educated and younger women “because of how he speaks, how he tweets,” said Republican pollster Frank Luntz, while retaining the support of older women and women with lower incomes and without college degrees. At the same time, he said, recent focus groups suggest that women have dug in on their views, suggesting there are fewer women open to being persuaded.

“What’s happened is it’s become more pronounced where those who don’t like him are overtly hostile and those who do like him will stand up for him aggressively,” Luntz said. “They are even more outspoken than men. They are even more dismissive. It’s spoken with attitude and with venom. And I think it’s because they take it personally.”

As a result, he said, the election is likely to come down to a very narrow demographic — married professional mothers with teenage kids, he says — who credit Trump for a booming economy, but are turned off by his style.

“They like what he’s done, but they don’t like how he’s done it,” he said. “Do you want to focus on the ingredients, or do you want to focus on the casserole?”