A new war over the ‘woman card’

Updated 2:58 PM EDT, Wed April 27, 2016
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Story highlights

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both referred to the idea of a "woman card" Tuesday

She used hers to make a point about women's issues

(CNN) —  

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on Tuesday declared their own war over women.

The Democratic and Republican presidential front-runners signaled a heated general election clash over gender after they both swept much closer to closing out their nominations.

Clinton relished a chance to lay into Trump in her victory speech in Philadelphia after winning four out of the five Northeastern primary contests.

Huge wins for Clinton, Trump

“The other day, Mr. Trump accused me, of playing the, quote, ‘woman card,’ ” Clinton said. “Well, if fighting for women’s health care and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the woman card, then deal me in.”

Trump brought up the “women’s card” again in his own victory speech Tuesday after his five-for-five showing in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

Eye-rolling politician’s wife upstages Trump

“I think the only card she has is the women’s card,” Trump said a short while later in New York. “She has got nothing else going. Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she would get 5% of the vote. And the beautiful thing is, women don’t like her.”

Trump continued the attack Wednesday on CNN.

“She is a woman,” he told Chris Cuomo on “New Day.” “She is playing the woman card left and right. She didn’t play it last time with Obama. But she’s playing it much harder this time and she will be called on it,” he said. “If she were a man and she was the way she is, she would get virtually no votes.”

Donald Trump’s history of controversy with women

He went on: “Hillary has a lot of flaws. She’s got a lot of problems. A lot of women, as you know, don’t like Hillary, despite the card.”

But exit polls don’t bear that out. Clinton did well among women in Tuesday’s primary states, according to exit polls of Democratic primary voters. She handily beat Bernie Sanders in the three states with exit poll data, garnering as much as 68% of female Democratic voters in Maryland.

Trump, Clinton score major victories

Trump also captured the majority of women Republican primary voters in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, though by slightly smaller margins.

Democrats are convinced that there will be a substantial gender gap favoring their candidate in the general election owing to Trump’s past unflattering rhetoric on women and incidents like his recent comment – later walked back – that women who get an abortion should be punished.

The contrast will be all the more acute because Clinton is trying to make history by becoming the first woman president and clearly sees her past role as an icon for women’s rights and issues of gender equality as a huge advantage.

Clinton’s campaign also sent out a fundraising email Wednesday based on Trump’s remarks, calling them an “absurd diatribe.”

But Trump’s comment showed that he is ready for the fight, and thinks he can turn it to his advantage.