Two numbers worth considering.
In the aftermath of the release of the hot-mic recording of Donald Trump casually discussing sexual assault last week, several polls have considered how voters reacted to the revelation. Among those are a national poll from the Atlantic-PRRI and a new poll in Pennsylvania from Bloomberg-Selzer.
The first poll found Trump getting the support of 28 percent of women nationally. The second found that in the critical counties surrounding Philadelphia, Trump got 24 percent from the same group. Those counties are worth isolating because they've been central to recent Democratic success in the state — a state that is now one of the last four Trump's campaign thinks he can win, according to reporting from NBC News. (The other three: Florida, North Carolina and Ohio.)
It should go without saying that those numbers are stunningly bad.
In every election since 1976 save two, white women have voted for the Republican in a presidential campaign. In every election since 1984, women have comprised more of the electorate than men. While women overall have backed the Democrat since 1988, white women have been an increasingly important part of Republican presidential strength in recent years.
This year, the white vote is much more split than it has been in the past, with white women — particularly college-educated white women — moving toward Hillary Clinton even more dramatically than white men without degrees have moved to Trump.
To the extent that Trump's been able to hang in there with Clinton, it is because he has managed to keep frustrations from white women balanced with the rapture of white men. It has been a delicate balancing act.
The hot-mic tape, followed by the new revelations that Trump's “locker-room talk” about sexual assault may have been more than talk, seems likely to disturb that balance.
The first poll in the wake of the hot-mic tape, from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, found a big shift to Clinton in its wake. Interviews conducted before the second debate showed that men preferred Clinton by one point — and women preferred her by 25. This was the same period that Atlantic-PRRI poll covered, showing a shift of 23 points to Clinton among women in a week. A poll in Wisconsin showed Clinton leading with women by nine points in interviews conducted the day before the tape came out. By the weekend, she led by more than 30.
Once the NBC-Journal poll included interviews from after the second debate, though, it seemed as though Trump had stanched a bit of the bleeding. Women still preferred Clinton, but by only 12 points.
Among Republicans, Trump saw a big increase in support. Since the numbers for men didn't change before and after the debate, it is safe to assume that much of the party shift was Republican women coming back on board. Soft support from members of his own party — mostly those Republican women — is a key factor in why he has at times trailed badly in the polls. In the most recent ABC-Post poll, Trump gets 85 percent of the vote from Republican men to Clinton's 4 percent — an 81 percent margin. Among Republican women, Trump gets 82 percent to Clinton's 7 percent, a margin of 75 percent. Among white women with college degrees, Trump trails by 18 points.
But none of this takes the new allegations into consideration. At the debate, Trump denied having acted on the comments he made in that tape, a denial that appears to have inspired some of the women who are talking with the press now to come forward. Will the contradiction between what Trump said and what these women allege tamp down Trump's support among women further? Or has the effect of the hot-mic tape already been baked in?
Trump's problems with women aren't isolated to his own party. Even before the hot-mic tape came out, his numbers were slipping among independents. Independent women have consistently been more supportive of Clinton than Trump, a scenario that seems likely to get even worse.
After FiveThirtyEight published maps showing the electoral college results if only men came out to vote, and if only women came out to vote, a new hashtag started to trend on Twitter: #repealthe19th. That's the 19th Amendment, the amendment that granted women the right to vote. Trump supporters — the majority of whom are men — figured that might be as good an option as any to ensure victory for their candidate.
Trump's problem isn't that women vote. Trump's problem is that he has not been able to persuade women to vote for him — and that his pitch seems to keep getting worse. Four years ago, Mitt Romney lost women by 11 points. In that Atlantic-PRRI poll (one poll, mind you) Trump trails with that group by 33. He needs to be making progress against the 2012 candidate, who lost, but he's consistently been doing worse with a group that makes up more than half of the electorate.
It's hard to see how the new allegations could make those numbers better.