It's always fun to be courted as part of the gender gap. That's when the pols start to talk about family, health care, education and security. We hear about so-called women's issues nonstop. We see candidates' wives tell us their husbands are really human, loving and fab dads. Translation: If we love them, you can too.
Why all the fuss? Because at some point in the last few decades, campaigns figured out that women vote in higher numbers -- and not necessarily like the men in their lives. Sometimes, yes. But not always, not by any means. In fact, the influence can often go the other way. What's more, women are no monolith: Mitt Romney
won with married women in 2012 by 7 points, for instance. Yet Barack Obama
won with women overall by 11 points. In order to win this time, a GOP candidate has to do better.
Enter Donald Trump
. He just loves women. At least that's what he tells us. And women, of course, just love him. Not quite sure what the evidence is there, except for Trump's involvement with Miss Universe or his declaration in one of his books that "I love women."
Well, not so much with debate moderator Megyn Kelly, it seems, after she asked Trump about his assorted rants
against women he clearly doesn't love as "fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals." His answer was an effort to cleverly deflect with some rhetoric about how neither he nor the country has time to be "politically correct." Even if that's true, how does the ever-so-busy Trump have the time to constantly tweet his insults? Seems like he has a lot of time to be politically incorrect.
In a final coup de grace, Trump went after Kelly, allowing as to how he had been "nice to" her (for which she should be grateful, I presume?), but then theorized that maybe he ought not to be. Whoa. An untweeted threat? The real, live audience booed. He tried to back off from the bluster, but there it was.
Oh, and by the way, no candidate stepped up debate night to agree that Trump's insults about women were offensive. Maybe it was the rules that kept them silent? Or maybe it was that Carly Fiorina
, the only woman in the GOP field, had been offstage, relegated to the first (I-didn't-have-enough-support-to-make-it into-the-big-boy) debate?
Friday morning, Trump's official account retweeted a tweet that referred to Kelly -- an accomplished anchor, lawyer and mother -- as a "bimbo." Awfully presidential, wouldn't you say? And in an interview Friday evening with Don Lemon on "CNN Tonight," Trump attacked Kelly again.
So here's where we are: Clearly, Republicans know they need more women to vote for them if they are going to win the presidency. Second obvious point: With Hillary Clinton
running for president, the gender gap could turn into a gender wave. And not just because Clinton is a woman -- women don't automatically vote for women (see: Hillary Clinton, circa 2008 campaign) -- but because Republicans, at least so far, have made a mess of it.
It's not that it's a premeditated "war on women" as the Democratic Party apparatus likes to dub it; it's more of a head-scratching, did-you-just-say-that process of flubs that slowly seeps into the ether. Jeb Bush
stepped in it when he said, "I'm not sure we need half a billion dollars for women's health issues." Or that, while most Republicans oppose same-sex marriage
, 58% of women support it. And in the last campaign, for instance, Republicans found themselves debating the issue of birth control, on the defensive after Senate candidate Todd Aiken spoke of "legitimate rape" and cringed in pain when Romney bragged he had "binders full of women" to choose from for potential statehouse jobs.
After 2012, Republicans even decided to hold seminars for GOP candidates about how to talk to women. Guess they left Trump off the list.
Generally, authenticity in politics is a great thing. We don't see enough of it, to be sure. But that doesn't mean that when you see it, you automatically have to like it. And in Trump's case, count women as skeptical. A recent CBS News poll of registered voters shows that 62% of women have an unfavorable view of Trump. Among Republican women, he does somewhat better, but he's still underwater: 42% have an unfavorable view of him; 38% like him.
In Trump's book "The Art of the Comeback," he waxes on about les girls: "There's nothing I love more than women, but they are really a lot different than portrayed. They are far worse than men, far more aggressive, and boy, can they be smart. Let's give credit where credit is due, and let's salute women for their tremendous power, which most men are afraid to admit they have."
If Trump says it, then it must be true.