President Trump has spent the last four years alienating women voters. Now he needs his wife to help win their support. But is that even possible?
Melania Trump will be featured Tuesday night at the Republican National Convention, and her remarks are being billed as the GOP's best effort to convince wavering female voters to return to the fold. "My husband and this administration have taken historic measures to empower and support women in the United States — and around the world," she said Monday.
That may be a hard sell for a president defined, in part, by a history of sexism. That includes a litany of personal transgressions — the famous Access Hollywood tape, the alleged affair he had with a porn star while Melania was at home with their newborn child, and E. Jean Carroll's rape allegation — as well as a few that stand firmly in the political realm: The president's disdain for female reporters who challenge him is well-documented, and he has generously applied the "nasty" label (and worse) to a number of women who have criticized him. Under Trump, the term "gaslighting" — a word often used to describe abusive men — has moved into the political mainstream.
The result: Recent polls of female voters show Trump is now trailing Democratic nominee Joe Biden by roughly 25 points, and even white working class women appear to be abandoning him. A number of female GOP officials have also defected to Democrats in recent years; in Kansas, the current Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate left the GOP just two years ago, citing Trump as a reason. Women who remain in the party seem frustrated as well.
"Trump has created an environment where women are not particularly interested in the Republican Party ... where the Republican Party doesn't seem like a place for women." GOP strategist Sarah Longwell told the Washington Post earlier this month.
Trump can't win women voters, but he can't afford to lose them this badly either. A president legendary for his ugliness to women now needs them to survive, politically. Melania, it seems, has a very big task ahead of her.