But Trump remains undaunted about the female vote. He has a new strategy to win them over, the New York Times reports today:
Trump plans to throw Bill Clinton’s infidelities in Hillary Clinton’s face on live television during the presidential debates this fall, questioning whether she enabled his behavior and sought to discredit the women involved….In a telephone interview, he noted that women did not like seeing Mrs. Clinton insulted or bullied by men. He said he wanted to be more strategic, by calling into question Mrs. Clinton’s judgment in her reaction to Mr. Clinton’s affairs — people close to the couple have said she was involved in efforts to discredit the women — and in her response to crises like Benghazi.“Just getting nasty with Hillary won’t work,” Mr. Trump said. “You really have to get people to look hard at her character, and to get women to ask themselves if Hillary is truly sincere and authentic. Because she has been really ugly in trying to destroy Bill’s mistresses, and she is pandering to women so obviously when she is only interested in getting power.”
What’s striking here is that Trump is boasting about this as a shrewd toning down of his approach. Last month, Trump said that “If Hillary Clinton were a man I don’t think she’d get five percent of the vote,” and added for good measure that he hadn’t “recovered from her shouting,” publicly cringing with distaste at the prospect of having to listen to that shouting for another “four or five months.”
Now Trump is implicitly admitting that female voters won’t respond well to his insults and nastiness, which probably wasn’t an easy concession for him to make. But even as he allows this, Trump is also explicitly vowing to throw Bill Clinton’s affairs in Hillary’s face on national television. And he’s promising to make the case that Clinton’s showcasing of the groundbreaking nature of electing a female president — and her efforts to craft an economic agenda that will help women — represent nothing more than pandering to them. Even if you allow that Clinton may end up having to confront tough questions about any role she played in “enabling” Bill Clinton’s affairs, the subtext of Trump’s assault remains the same as it has been for months: Hillary’s public humiliation amid Bill’s sexual exploits should not be seen as a source of sympathy or a sign of her strength, but as a sham; her marriage was a corrupt bargain driven by her lust for power; she is only where she is because she is a woman.
I feel obliged to once again point out the fundamental asymmetry here: Trump (who is also vowing to make an issue out of — really — Whitewater) is rehashing old allegations that are the result of two decades of scrutiny of Clinton. Meanwhile, as the weekend revelations about Trump’s private treatment of women show, we are continuously learning new information about his past.
What’s more, top Democratic operatives have suggested to me another angle worth considering. It’s possible that Trump’s high negatives right now mostly reflect a level of voter awareness of Trump’s bombast and all around unpleasantness that, ultimately, is pretty superficial. Perhaps key general election voter groups, who weren’t paying close attention to the GOP primaries, aren’t all that aware of the full range of wretched remarks from Trump, all of which are on video. Democrats will be educating them about all of this soon enough. The key point here is that, if Trump does try these lines of attack on Clinton (and he may not; all these hints might just be a baiting exercise), driving home to female voters his chauvinism, misogyny and all around recklessness and divisiveness could help ensure that they are seen as dumb stunts that reveal his temperamental unfitness for the presidency.
Now, there is no dismissing the importance of Clinton’s high negatives, particularly her dismal numbers on trust. It’s always possible that Trump can somehow re-purpose all those old allegations in a way that reignites mistrust of her, now that she’s within striking distance of the White House. Her campaign is likely worrying about the need to create a much more positive narrative about her than it has been able to do thus far. But even granting all that, it seems obvious that in this battle to come, Trump starts with the weaker position, one that may be further debilitated by his seeming inability to think rationally about how his attitudes towards women may really be perceived by the general election audience.
* DEMS WRING HANDS ABOUT HILLARY’S WEAKNESSES: The Post reports that Democrats are worried about a litany of weaknesses that Clinton has as a candidate:
She is scripted and thin-skinned, they say. And with a sigh, they acknowledge the persistent feeling among a lot of Americans that they just don’t like her. Among other potential problems identified by supporters: Clinton’s unpopularity with white men, questions about whether her family philanthropic foundation helped donors and friends, and lingering clouds from her tenure at the State Department.
Yes, yes, yes, and the possibility of Trump becoming president makes the stakes even higher. But once again, if they weren’t wringing their hands, they wouldn’t be Democrats.
* HOW REPUBLICANS WILL SUPPORT TRUMP: RNC chair Reince Priebus, asked on Face the Nation about the differences on entitlements, immigration and other issues between Trump and Paul Ryan, replied:
“They agree on far more than they disagree on. They agree on various agenda items in Paul Ryan’s agenda. They agree on the Supreme Court. They agree on the platform of the Republican Party. They agree on abortion. I think you have got about 80 percent overlap. And you have seen actually Donald Trump this week nuance a little bit on some of those positions that you have just outlined.”
Trump is “nuancing” his positions. See, all Trump has to do is tweak his language a bit to make it possible for Republicans to claim some kind of overlap on “principle,” and all will be fine.
* DEMS PREPARE TO UNLEASH AD ONSLAUGHT: CNN reports that the pro-Clinton Super PAC Priorities USA is moving up the date of its planned assault on Trump: Some $6 million of ads will begin airing Wednesday in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Nevada.
As of now, Priorities has reserved a total of $136 million in ads — which is why Trump will almost certainly end up green-lighting Super PAC spending on his behalf. The question is whether GOP donors will chip in for Trump, who may end up getting badly outgunned.
* KEEP AN EYE ON GEORGIA, PEOPLE: A new Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll finds that Trump only leads Hillary Clinton in Georgia by four points, 45-41, which is within the margin of error. Another recent poll had it even closer, and the polling averages put it at 45-43.
This lends support to the Clinton campaign’s belief that Trump as GOP nominee could put states like Georgia, Arizona, and North Carolina in play.
* SOCIAL CONSERVATIVES WARM TO TRUMP: Jeremy Peters reports that the pivot is underway among both social conservative groups and Trump:
Mr. Trump — whose litany of offenses against cultural conservatives include support of Planned Parenthood, past positions on abortion rights and his more accepting views on gays and lesbians — is winning over this once deeply skeptical constituency. He has made overt moves, such as suggesting last week that he would name Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade….The support of social conservatives…means getting assistance from groups that plan to spend millions of dollars mobilizing voters.
Shocking, just shocking. Who could have predicted that, when choosing between irrelevance and supporting a thrice-married playboy who boasts endlessly about his wealth, social conservatives would pick the former?
* WHY WE SHOULD INVEST MORE IN OUR CHILDREN: Paul Krugman takes stock of Clinton’s plan to subsidize family spending on childcare and expand access to it, and concludes:
It would indeed be an investment — every bit as much of an investment as spending money to repair and improve our transportation infrastructure. After all, today’s children are tomorrow’s workers and taxpayers. So it’s an incredible waste, not just for families but for the nation as a whole, that so many children’s futures are stunted because their parents don’t have the resources to take care of them as well as they should. And affordable child care would also have the immediate benefit of making it easier for parents to work productively.
Politically speaking, this is another way in which Clinton might make inroads among blue collar white women, potentially making Trump’s path to the White House steeper.
* AND TRUMP’S RISE IS OBUNGLER’S FAULT: E.J. Dionne takes on the absurd claim by some on the right that Obama is to blame for Trump’s rise, reminding us of all the ways in which Obama has criticized his own side in exactly the terms conservatives agree with:
What’s maddening here is not just the incongruity of indicting Obama for the success of the man who denied his very right to be president. It’s also that Obama has consistently stood for the things that conservatives say they want liberals to stand for — starting with a robust patriotism.
Of course, birtherism is probably also somehow Obama’s fault, so…