Donald Trump had a problem with female voters before today. But, in the wake of a recording of Trump making a series of lewd comments about women going public, that problem is likely to get even worse.
First reported by WaPo's David Fahrenthold, the tape details a conversation between Trump and Billy Bush, then a host of the show “Access Hollywood,” in 2005. Trump repeatedly talks about his prowess with women and the techniques that he uses to get them. One example: “I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married,” Trump says. “Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.” (We won't quote the whole thing here, but you should read David's full story.)
So. Well. Okay.
It doesn't take a veteran political handicapper to realize that comments like these — in which women are treated as objects and playthings — would be deeply harmful to any presidential candidate's efforts to court women — and men, for that matter. (Trump dismissed the conversation as “locker room banter” that happened years ago, in a statement from his campaign.)
But this story is even more problematic for Trump, who already has massive problems among women — thanks in large part to well-publicized comments he has made over the years in which he described various females as “dogs” and “fat pigs.” Trump clashed with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly in 2015 and was quoted as suggesting she was mean to him because she had “blood coming out of her wherever” — an apparent reference to her menstrual cycle. In recent days, Trump has feuded with former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, whom he described as “disgusting” and insinuated she had appeared in a "sex tape." (It wasn't a sex tape.)
Here's what Trump's numbers looked like in an August Washington Post-ABC News poll that asked whether respondents thought he was biased against women and minorities.
Pay particular attention to the number of women who believe that Trump is biased against women and minorities in that chart above; more than half of women said that they felt that way strongly.
Republican women have been, on average, six points more pro-Hillary Clinton than Republican men in the margin of their support in a head-to-head matchup with Trump. But, the gap among women becomes stark when you look at independent women, who have been 29 points more pro-Clinton than independent men. That's a stunning number, and one that is likely to get wider, not narrower, in the wake of these latest revelations.
It's also important to remember that women have been a majority of the vote in every presidential election since 1980. In 2012, women made up 53 percent of the electorate, and President Obama won them by 10 points over Mitt Romney. Women made up 53 percent of the electorate in 2008, with Obama beating John McCain by 13 points.
Trump's situation with female voters is made all the more complicated because he is running against Clinton, the first woman ever to win a major-party presidential nomination.
On Friday, Clinton reacted to the news of the video by saying:
This is horrific. We cannot allow this man to become president. https://t.co/RwhW7yeFI2
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 7, 2016
The historic element of Clinton's campaign has, to date, not been a major topic of debate, but it could well become one in the very near future.
Speaking of that near future, the second presidential debate of the general election is set for Sunday night. While the debate is a town hall with the questions mostly being asked by audience members, you can bet that the moderators will make sure this is the first question asked of Trump.
The response that Trump offered The Post — "locker room banter” — won't, or, at least, shouldn't, be good enough. Trump needs to be ready to explain why he (or anyone) would talk like this about women and what it says about how he really feels about them. And he's not starting from a good spot. At all.
Trump's problems among female voters — particularly college-educated white women living in the suburbs — had already made his path to the White House unlikely. These latest revelations badly complicate even that narrow path.