Trump slammed New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez
He called Sen. Elizabeth Warren "Pocahontas"
Donald Trump has another woman problem – three of them.
The presumptive Republican nominee spent the past 24 hours blasting his likely opponent, Hillary Clinton, and his most provocative antagonist, Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
But he didn’t stop there. He also slammed New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, the nation’s only Latina governor and a Republican. Martinez might be seen as an obvious choice for diplomacy, or even intensive courtship, given Trump’s standing among women and Hispanics.
Trump chose a different approach: He told the residents of New Mexico to get rid of her.
In all three cases, the clashes were classic Trump. Slight him, diss him, hit him – and he’ll hit back harder. Much harder.
But they also could play right into Democrats’ plans to brand Trump as a serial misogynist as he goes up against a rival who could become the first female president in history. His poor standing with women – a CNN/ORC poll in March found he was viewed unfavorably by 73% of registered female voters – is one of his biggest liabilities heading into the fall.
“He makes a habit of insulting women,” Clinton said Wednesday afternoon as a campaign stop in California. “He seems to have something about women.”
The battles have been brewing for weeks but exploded this week as Trump went west to hold a series of rallies and fundraisers. His latest scrapes are also likely to spur further conversation about whether he has a political weak spot in dealing with outspoken and powerful women – given that his debate clash with businesswoman and former presidential candidate Carly Fiorina was one of the shakiest moments of an otherwise wildly successful primary campaign.
Here are the highlights of Trump’s latest fights:
His response to Martinez’s absence was swift, fierce and characteristic. Since becoming the GOP’s presumptive nominee, Trump has not developed the technique of turning the other cheek that could benefit his wider political interests.
“We have to get your governor to get going,” Trump told a raucous crowd. “She has got to do a better job. She is not doing the job. Hey, maybe I will run for governor of New Mexico. I’ll get this place going.”
Trump’s attack on Martinez is counter-intuitive, given that she is a rising GOP star, who is perennially mentioned in vice presidential scuttlebutt. As a woman and a Latina, Martinez is the kind of candidate Republicans badly need in their corner if they are to reverse their losing streak in presidential elections.
And as a Republican in New Mexico, a state that has trended Democratic in recent presidential contests, she has much to teach her party about winning southwestern states the GOP needs to recapture if it is to make a tough electoral map more favorable.
Yet Trump’s attack did not seem off-the-cuff – he appeared to be reading from several sheafs of paper as he jabbed Martinez.
Senior Trump advisor Tana Goertz rejected the idea that Trump’s attitude said anything about his feelings towards women and Latino voters but was just a case of him being honest after he was personally snubbed.
“She hasn’t been very kind to Mr. Trump and you know that he will not back down to anyone whether it is a male or a female. If you go after him then he will pull out your resume and say, you are not doing that good of a job,” Goertz told CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield.
Martinez did not take long to respond, hitting back at Trump through a spokesman on Wednesday, rejecting his claims she wanted to import Syrian refugees into New Mexico and claiming he had so far shown little sign of helping her state.
“The pot shots weren’t about policy, they were about politics. And the governor will not be bullied into supporting a candidate until she is convinced that candidate will fight for New Mexicans,” said spokesman Mike Lonergan.
Trump is receiving especially intense fire from Warren, the liberal, anti-Wall Street Massachusetts senator who, with her dry wit and grassroots Democratic following is emerging as one of his most effective critics and a capable defender of Clinton.
Warren is giving Trump a taste of his own medicine, blasting him for comments he made as a businessman noting the money that could be made in a housing crash.
In a speech on Tuesday, she mocked him as “a small, insecure, money grubber, who doesn’t care who gets hurt so long as he makes a profit off it.”
“What kind of man does that? A man who will never be president of the United States,” Warren said.
That might be harsh but it doesn’t approach the fusillades Warren has been firing off on Twitter, directly at Trump, on his favorite social media platform.
“Anytime someone calls out @realDonaldTrump, he replies with right-wing conspiracies & lies. It’s not presidential - & getting very old,” she tweeted.
On May 11, Warren was even more caustic.
“Your policies are dangerous. Your words are reckless. Your record is embarrassing. And your free ride is over,” Warren tweeted.
On the same day, Warren openly challenged Trump over his attitude to women.
“We get it, @realDonaldTrump: When a woman stands up to you, you’re going to call her a basket case. Hormonal. Ugly.”
Trump is not taking such criticism on the chin. He coined a nickname for Warren, calling her “goofy.”
And he latched onto her claim, much ridiculed among Republicans, to have native American ancestry, and is now calling her “Pocahontas,” even though such terminology carries racial overtones.
“I call her goofy. She gets less done than anybody in the United States Senate,” Trump said in Anaheim, California, on Wednesday. “She gets nothing done, nothing passed. She’s got a big mouth and that’s about it. But they use her because Hillary’s trying to be very presidential.”
Warren’s performance has not gone unnoticed by Democrats, even prompting buzz that she could join Clinton on a historic all-women presidential ticket that would put Democratic attacks on Trump’s attitude to women at the center of the fall campaign.
At the very least though, Warren, who has deep credibility with grassroots Democrats, many of whom have flocked to Bernie Sanders, could be vital in bringing the party together ahead of its convention in July.
While Martinez and Warren are grabbing headlines, the ultimate political clash that will decide the destiny of the White House is between Clinton and Trump.
Gender is already a fault line in the general election campaign, which will partly hinge on whether Trump’s unpopularity with women voters will be more decisive than Clinton’s poor ratings with male voters.
Clinton downplayed her status as potentially the first woman president in her 2008 campaign. But she has highlighted her historic status more this time around.
“I don’t know whether it makes him feel good to insult people,” Clinton said Wednesday. “I don’t understand the motivation.”
Trump has responded to what he sees as the playing of the “woman card” by the Clinton campaign by unleashing the full fury of his tongue.
“I will never say this – but she screams it drives me crazy. I didn’t say it. It drives me crazy,” he said in New Mexico on Tuesday.
To counter claims by Democrats that he is anti-women, Trump has branded the former first lady an “enabler” of Bill Clinton’s alleged extra-marital affairs, and dredged up the 1990s scandals that led to the former president’s impeachment.
The tone between Clinton and Trump might be ugly already – but it is likely to get worse before the two rivals meet for their ultimate showdown – three presidential debates in the fall.
CNN’s Maeve Reston contributed to this report