Programming note: CNN will host the final three Republican candidates at a live town hall in Milwaukee from 8-11 p.m. ET Tuesday.
For a group of Arizona women, The Donald's strength trumps all
But the billionaire's favorability ratings -- or lack thereof -- with women are remarkably bad
Eileen Eagar, an Arizona realtor and strict political conservative, began this Republican primary contest with a clear favorite: Ted Cruz.
She supported the Texas senator through the early debates and even donated to his campaign.
“Everything that he said is what I believe in,” she told CNN. But over time, something changed. Cruz seemed too “structured,” Eagar said, like he’s “talking by a script of some kind.”
Enter Donald Trump.
The billionaire’s favorability ratings – or lack thereof – with women are remarkably bad. According to a recent CNN/ORC poll, nearly 3-in-4 women registered to vote in 2016 hold an unfavorable view of the Republican front-runner.
But even as Trump allies fret over how to win more of their support, there is one group – led by Eagar – for whom there is virtually nothing he could do to lose it.
“The Group,” as they call themselves, is a band of conservative Tucson area women who gather every month to discuss politics and government. They are highly educated, professional, observant Mormons – and all fierce backers of Donald J. Trump.
So how do they support a man who, whether it be in a social media spat or during a cable TV rant, seems to violate every aspect of what they believe?
“Because the other side is worse,” Eagar said to laughter.
Her friend, Crystal Junior, who is Mexican-American, offered her appreciation for Trump’s “transparency.”
“I just find that what you see is what you get with this man,” she said. “And that is what I want.”
“He’s a strong man with a strong personality,” said Brooke Steck, a church leader and, like Junior, a mother of four. “He really does love his country, loves people, he really has respect for women.”
Steck is unmoved by the most recent outbreak of animus between Trump and Cruz, which has included implicit attacks on each other’s wives.
“This tweeting, it’s quite ridiculous,” she said. “We need to focus on the issues at hand and what’s going on in our country and around the world and problems. This is just a distraction and we need to get back to the main issues.”
The women blame Cruz for the scuffle, citing an ad, created by an anti-Trump super PAC, that featured an old image of Melania Trump posing provocatively without clothes for a magazine spread.
Trump responded last week to its appearance by calling out Cruz, who denied any involvement, and threatening to “spill the beans” on his wife, Heidi, then retweeting side-by-side pictures of the women.
“No need to ‘spill the beans’,” it said. “The images are worth a thousand words.”
Lyn Kilian, who moved to the U.S. from Canada more than 50 years ago, conceded she has “cringed on occasion when he’s said a certain thing.”
“I wonder why (Trump has) said a certain thing, but that’s his personality,” she said. “He’s just – he just lets it roll.”
So is there anything Trump could say or do to give these backers second thoughts?
For Junior, only his “going back on his policies and on the issues” could break the bond.
“It’s his policies that we admire,” Eagar agreed. “And that’s really the crux of it and has nothing to do with what he might call somebody or what kind of terminology he uses.”