The GOP has a problem with women — and the top Republican in the Senate is admitting it.
Earlier this year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) asked former Alabama governor Robert Bentley to appoint a woman to the vacate Senate seat of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, citing the party's diversity problem.
“We are made up of old white men in the Republican Party,” McConnell told Bentley according to the Montgomery Advertiser. “If you could consider a woman, that would be really good for the party.”
Bentley didn't end up appointing a woman to the seat. He appointed the Alabama attorney general, Luther Strange, who is now running for reelection to the Senate with the support of President Trump.
Bentley ended up resigning two months later after fighting for more than a year against allegations that he used public resources to conceal an affair with a married aide. His replacement: a woman. Former lieutenant governor Kay Ivey (R) assumed his seat in the governor's mansion.
All of that aside, McConnell had a point.
The Republican Party, particularly in the Senate, sorely lacks diversity. Of the party's 52 Senate seats, only five are held by women and only three by people of color. Thirty-three of the GOP senators are age 60 and over. This absence in diversity was probably notable to McConnell because it was reflected how Americans voted in 2016 — and there's some concern about how people will vote in the 2018 midterm elections, when quite a few seats are up for grabs.
Female voters chose Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at record numbers in 2016. Only 42 percent of women voted for Republican nominee Donald Trump. That gender gap is among the widest in exit polls dating back to 1972. Trump lost every racial group of college-educated women. But he did perform better than expected with white college-educated women, winning 45 percent. And his higher-than-expected support from white women overall — 42 percent voted for him — helped hand the Republicans the White House in 2016, according to Edison national election poll.
But more than a year after the Republican Party nominated a candidate who was forced to answer for his comments about a female opponent's appearance, a female television anchor's “bleeding” and how he used his star power to grab women's genitals without their permission, McConnell seems to be aware that his party may be in trouble with women in next year's midterms.
The president's latest weekly Gallup approval ratings among women is low — only 32 percent. That's 12 points lower than the approval rating for men (44 percent). And while 40 percent of Americans believe Trump should be impeached, women are much more likely to want the commander in chief out of office, according to last month's PRRI poll.
Women's views toward Republicans extend beyond the White House. The GOP controls Congress, and most women don't like it. The overwhelming majority — 83 percent — of women do not approve of the way Congress is handling its job, according to Quinnipiac poll. And 65 percent of women in the same poll said they have an unfavorable view of Republicans.
Trump's overall approval ratings appear to be inching upward even though women still view him less favorably than men. Only time will tell if the party will be able to launch candidates who give female voters confidence that the GOP is the party for them.
But one thing is sure: Simply appointing a woman to a Senate seat won't guarantee higher approval ratings with female voters in the Trump era.