By Amy B Wang,
Emily Elconin Reuters
President Trump had a deal to offer the women at his rally in Lansing, Mich., this week. He loved women, he declared — “much more than the men” — and he needed their support. In exchange, he would help their husbands get back to work.
“They want to get back to work, right? They want to get back to work,” Trump said. “We’re getting your husbands back to work, and everybody wants it.”
The remark ignored a central reality of the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic: Women also work, and they have suffered greater professional and economic consequences during the crisis.
A yawning chasm has emerged between Trump’s support among women and their backing of Democratic nominee Joe Biden — but the president, in his public remarks, has seemed intent on exacerbating it.
Trump has spent the closing weeks of his campaign using outdated stereotypes to appeal to women in the suburbs, several times saying baselessly that a Biden win would result in the ruination of their communities. He has implied that suburban women are White, when those areas have steadily diversified over decades. He has gone out of his way to insult a growing number of prominent women, from journalists to Democratic politicians to members of his own party.
Just this month, Trump belittled CBS News correspondent Lesley Stahl as “a zippo” with a “negative attitude,” after abruptly walking out of an interview with her on CBS’s “60 Minutes” (“a total joke of a show”). Leading up to the second presidential debate, he attacked the moderator, NBC News correspondent Kristen Welker, as a “terrible & unfair,” though he had praised her in the past. After a town hall in which NBC’s Savannah Guthrie pressed Trump on several questions, he criticized her as “going totally crazy.”
At his Michigan rally, he suggested that a foiled plot to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was “maybe . . . a problem, maybe it wasn’t.” The crowd responded with chants of “Lock her up!” Whitmer later said Trump’s rhetoric heightened the potential for violence.
“Every time he sets his sights on me, I get more death threats,” she told CBS News.
Bonnie Jo Mount
The Washington Post
Women watch from a window as former president Barack Obama makes a stop while campaigning for his former vice president, Joe Biden, in Philadelphia on Oct. 21.
Trump has reserved some of his most intense ridicule for women of color. He has repeatedly questioned Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) intellect and whether she attended college, and raised doubts about Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-Minn.) love of the United States. Both have long been targets of Trump’s disdain. He has called Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), a “monster” and tried to paint her as a socialist who would swiftly take over for Biden, highlighting her gender as a reason to vote against Democrats.
“We’re not going to have a socialist president — especially a female socialist president,” he said at a rally last week. “We’re not gonna have it. We’re not gonna put up with it!”
On Wednesday, at a rally in Goodyear, Ariz., he played on gender and racial stereotypes about angry Black women to mock Harris’s laugh.
“Kamala. Kamala. You know, if you don’t pronounce her name exactly right, she gets very angry at you,” Trump said, mispronouncing her name. “And then she starts — you know what she does when she gets angry? She starts laughing. Like she did on ‘60 Minutes.’ Uncontrollable laughs. That means she’s angry.”
Female voters are propelling Biden’s lead over Trump in pre-election polls. Among female likely voters, 59 percent say they support Biden, while 36 percent say they back Trump, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll. The same poll found that 23-point gap extended further in the suburbs: Women there favored Biden over Trump by 62 to 34 percent.
Although much of Trump’s campaign has been aimed at shoring up support among men, who are far more inclined to back him, the president has made clear he is aware of his deficits among female voters.
“So can I ask you to do me a favor? Suburban women, will you please like me?” Trump asked his crowd at a rally earlier this month in Johnstown, Pa.
Voters gather for a photo with President Trump’s daughter Tiffany, in the blue coat, in Birmingham, Mich., on Thursday.
When asked about Trump’s recent remarks about and toward women, his campaign suggested that the media was insulting women by calling Trump’s language offensive.
“It’s belittling to women everywhere that the mainstream media sensationalizes common criticisms as sexist and tells us to be offended, rather than accepting women care more about facts,” Trump campaign spokeswoman Courtney Parella said. “President Trump has done more in 47 months than Joe Biden has in 47 years, and he will continue to deliver on an array of issues, like rebuilding our economy and restoring jobs, ensuring safe communities, prioritizing education and school choice, securing our borders and even brokering peace in the Middle East.”
Parella pointed to efforts by the “Women for Trump” coalition, which “empowers women to re-elect [Trump] by sharing their experiences and successes during the Trump administration.” The effort includes prominent Trump surrogates like Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law; Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary; and Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee.
It is unclear if any of Trump’s advisers have suggested that he change his behavior. Before the last debate, Trump’s aides privately urged him to tone it down after he was responsible for most of the interruptions in the first debate, a matchup so chaotic that it resulted in organizers implementing a mute button for the first time for the next faceoff. The strategy worked — at least for a little while.
“I’d like to respond if I may,” Trump asked early on, adding “thank you” when moderator Welker allowed him to do so. Toward the end of the night, however, Trump was increasingly talking over both Biden and Welker.
Ross D. Franklin
Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) speaks at a campaign rally for President Trump in Goodyear, Ariz., on Wednesday. Trump told her she had “one minute” to address the crowd.
Not even Republican women have been spared from disrespectful treatment. At his rally Wednesday, Trump introduced Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) — locked in a tough campaign to win a full term for the seat to which she was appointed, in what is shaping up to be a battleground state — by barking at her to hurry and limiting her speaking time to a minute.
“Martha, come up, just fast. Fast. Fast, come on, quick!” Trump said. “You got one minute! One minute, Martha! They don’t want to hear this, Martha. Come on. Let’s go. Quick, quick, quick, quick. Come on, let’s go.”
The Lincoln Project, a group founded by never-Trump Republicans that has been churning out dozens of videos in support of Biden, had early on sought to troll Trump’s insecurities and often went viral on social media for its blistering portrayals of the president. However, Trump’s lag in support among suburban women recently prompted a strategy shift.
“Polls were starting to tighten, and we’re thinking about the voters that matter,” said Sarah Lenti, the group’s executive director. “And it just struck us that, you know, the way that Trump speaks to women — I mean, we’ve felt this way for four years, but — it’s just totally unacceptable. And I think he got more and more brazen over the course of the last couple of months, especially with the female reporters and telling them they’re stupid, shut up and this, that, the other. He needs to be held accountable.”
In July, the group produced “Memories,” an ad that spoke not about Trump but about the shared experiences people were missing because of the administration’s failure to contain the pandemic. Lenti said it became one of the Lincoln Project’s best-performing ads among female viewers, as tracked through Facebook analytics.
That was followed by a string of ads deliberately targeted to exactly the demographic Trump needs to win back. One, “Girl in the Mirror,” which echoes a powerful Hillary Clinton ad from 2016, asks voters to imagine the messages their daughters are absorbing by watching Trump on television — and weaves in footage of Trump insulting various women.
“We knew that that kind of an ad was definitely speaking to people. We were motivated. Yes, we want to move suburban women,” Lenti said.
She added that the group has been monitoring Trump’s language at recent rallies and plans to cut more ads before Election Day.
“It’s too much,” Lenti said. “He’s over the top. He’s over the top. And he’s not going to change.”