Reports of how poorly the Republican Party is doing with female voters have been circulating among party officials for nearly a year, but based on his language, President Trump does not always appear to be greatly concerned about that.
In celebrating the dismissal of a defamation lawsuit against him brought by adult film actress Stormy Daniels — the two have been in a legal battle related to a 2016 payment she received to stay silent about their alleged affair — the president used a tactic he frequently employs against his female critics: He criticized her appearance.
Trump’s decision to attack a high-profile woman, and specifically her appearance, gives the impression that he does not care much about all of the data and reporting saying that women are turned off by his mistreatment of women — especially when it comes to how he chooses to disparage them.
The people Trump appears to care about most are the loyal supporters who backed his campaign in its earliest days after he came out swinging in the politically incorrect ways that have been the foundation of his presidency.
Despite multiple polls showing that the GOP is doing poorly with women overall and that the party is losing some of the female voters who supported Trump in 2016, the president has continued to say things that many predict will keep women from voting for Republicans in the November midterm election.
The Washington Post’s Elise Viebeck and Ashley Parker reported on how different White House aides and GOP strategists processed the comments as the Republican Party grapples with the possibility of losing the House, perhaps in particular because suburban white women are turning away from Trump.
Politicians and pundits, even within the GOP, took to news outlets and social media to note just how unhelpful the “Horseface” insult was just three weeks before the election.
“There’s no place for that. There’s no place for that kind of language. He should not have said that,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said on “CBS This Morning.”
And Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who also appeared on the morning news show, called Trump’s remarks “unacceptable.”
But many in Trump’s base, including women, apparently feel otherwise: They tweeted support for the president and attacked Daniels.
And on Wednesday, the president took to Twitter to try to sway female voters who may think that he is uninterested in their concerns, saying he believes he can address their issues far better than any Democrat.
Trump’s tactics aren’t that surprising if you factor in why so many Americans, including women, backed Trump’s presidency in the first place.
Voters often said they wanted a fighter in the White House who did not just take punches from his critics — regardless of gender — lying down. According to data from the Pew Research Center, it is Trump’s combative personality, far more than his policies, that keeps him popular with the base despite his overall unpopularity. And for many of these voters, no battle is worth walking away from.
That’s why when Trump at a Mississippi rally mocked the congressional testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Brett M. Kavanaugh, who was recently confirmed to the Supreme Court, of sexual assault when they were teenagers, many in the crowd responded with laughs, applause and even chants of “Lock her up.”
These are the voters Trump wants — and needs — to keep energized for the next several weeks, reminding them that he got another conservative judge onto the Supreme Court despite the protests of countless women on the left and dismissing data suggesting that a “blue wave” is coming in November, mainly because of female voters rallying behind female candidates.
After all, even despite his refusal to acknowledge it to an Associated Press reporter Tuesday, Trump realizes that the midterm election will be viewed as a referendum on his presidency.
He told a crowd of supporters earlier this month: “I’m not on the ticket, but I am on the ticket because this is also a referendum about me and the disgusting gridlock that they’ll put this country through.”