Donald Trump has a big problem with women.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee lags 23 points behind Hillary Clinton with women, according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll taken in April. It's become conventional wisdom that the combination of Clinton's gender and Trump's spotty record with women will lead to him getting crushed with female voters in November. But that's not necessarily the case.
First of all, Clinton isn't as strong with women as she looks. Bernie Sanders beat Clinton by seven points among women in New Hampshire. A full 82 percent of women under 30 supported the male Sanders over the "feminist" former first lady. Last month, a Fox News poll showed Clinton's support among women had nose-dived by 11 points, while Sanders jumped nine points. A report last week revealed that Clinton's internal polling on "gender talk" — the kind she uses at every turn — wasn't working. Believe it or not, Trump has a real opening to make a play for women voters.
How can he do it? Here are four ways.
1. Remember the '90s.
Trump has already demonstrated that bringing up Bill Clinton's past infidelity is an effective tactic. And much as Democrats might cry foul, pointing out Hillary's various reactions to her husband's dalliances highlights a huge hypocrisy for a woman who prides herself on being strong and independent. When Bill cheated, many women hated Hillary for sticking with him. That hasn't changed. Trump should remind people.
Many voters over the age of 35 have heard all about these Clinton scandals and allegations before, and brush them aside as old hat. But to millions of millennials, these stories are new.
In the '90s, the Clintons insisted that Bill's behavior was a "private matter." Sex in our society today is anything but. These days, people's sexual indiscretions are front page news. Our oversharing, voyeuristic culture has made it so. And while the millennial generation may appear to be the most sexually liberated since the '60s, they aren't big on sexual misdeeds by powerful men. Nor do they take well to women who allow the bullying of other women, as we saw in the backlash after Madeleine Albright warned that there was a "special place in hell" for female Sanders supporters if they didn't back Hillary.
2. Reach out to Midwestern suburban women.
Suburban women swing elections. Whether you call them "soccer moms" or "security moms," this group is critical to a Clinton victory. Some will be swept up in making history by voting to see the first female in the Oval Office. But plenty of others are up for grabs. And guess what? Trump is already making major headway in suburbs that traditionally trend blue, like the ones surrounding Philadelphia, which Obama won handily. Trump is clearly making a play for women concerned about national security and terrorism.
Trump must make safety a cornerstone of his campaign, and hammer home the security angle in Midwestern swing states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin. And while he's at it, he should remind suburban women of Hillary's infamous insult to stay-at-home moms: "I suppose I could have stayed at home and baked cookies, but I decided to pursue a career." That one still stings among the non-working woman set.
3. Show, don't tell.
It's one thing for Trump to tell us he loves women. It's another to show us. We haven't heard all that much about the women who work at Trump's vast organization. It's time we learned what they have to say about their boss. Retention and promotion of women at Trump's ventures is reportedly quite strong — a huge selling point. Every female knows that finding a workplace that can adapt to a woman's ever-evolving life changes (marriage, kids, etc) is a rarity. The fact that many women have thrived working for Trump speaks volumes. The DNC has desperately tried to ding the Donald personally for how he handles women. Before they make a move to define him professionally, he's got to learn from the mistakes of Mitt Romney and have his campaign articulate through real-life examples how he values females for more than just their looks.
4. More Ivanka!
Universally well-liked and respected by people of all political stripes, the highly successful and loyal Ivanka Trump is by far the campaign's best surrogate. Having your brilliant and successful daughter stump for you, and speak for you, is a sign of a shrewd candidate, and good parenting. A strong bond between father and daughter is exactly what Trump needs to show America — and women in particular — that he isn't the boorish businessman the media claims. To young women, hearing Ivanka tout how her dad elevated her to the highest levels of the Trump organization and entrusts her with far more than just his American Express is the best evidence that he puts his faith in females who earn it.
Trump has already defied conventional wisdom, proving the pundits wrong by sealing the GOP nomination, but make no mistake: If Trump is going to win the White House, he's going to need the help of women. Throughout his life, Trump has prided himself on women relying on him. Now, in a twist of political irony, it's Trump relying on them.
Andrea Tantaros is a political analyst for the Fox News Channel and author of the bestseller Tied Up in Knots: How Getting What We Wanted Made Women Miserable.