Trump must do better with female voters to win Pennsylvania, a critical battleground state
Some female Trump supporters say they're motivated by their opposition to Clinton
Donald Trump may get the raucous crowds, but where his daughter is hitting the trail is speaking volumes: the Philadelphia suburbs.
It’s where her father must win in order to become president, but it’s also full of voters – mostly women – who are likely to be turned off by Trump’s caught-on-tape lewd comments, and allegations of groping women.
Ivanka Trump’s whirlwind day trip took her through all four of the so-called collar counties of Philadelphia as she worked hard to connect with female voters.
“I wouldn’t be able to go to the office every day if I didn’t have a safe place to leave my children,” she said in Drexel Hill. Earlier in Malvern, she spoke about her father’s role as a mentor in her life. “He was a great dad growing up and having three children myself, I recognize now it’s really hard to be a good parent and it’s very hard to raise a close knit family.”
Ivanka played it very safe here, fielding only softballs from the crowds, like why she thinks her father would make a good president. In fact, that same question was asked at two events, as was a question about her memories of Philadelphia from when she attended the University of Pennsylvania.
She was preaching to the choir. The rooms were packed with women, and some men, already all in for Trump despite his salacious language caught on tape, and several women coming forward accusing him of groping them.
“He was at that time a reality TV star,” said Melissa Braithwaite who, along with two friends, made clear they were steadfast and even defiant in their support for Trump. “I think he wasn’t saying what he does to women per se,” she explained. “I think he was just bragging.”
Others blamed the media, and the Democrats, for dredging up an old tape of Trump, saying it has nothing to do with the issues that draw them to the billionaire.
Still, when Pennsylvania Republican Jessica Curtis told us she was voting for Trump, she sounded a bit reluctant.
“It’s been a hard road,” she said, sitting next to her 12-year-old daughter. “If he said all those things right now – in a different context it might be different but I had to separate it and I think he would do a better job representing a lot of what America needs,” she added.
Ivanka Trump did not take questions from reporters. She darted out of events in Chester and Delaware counties, ignoring our attempts to ask her anything.
But Republican leaders here are well aware of the political reality outside of these tightly scripted events.
A new poll from Bloomberg shows Trump trailing Hillary Clinton by a whopping 43% among female voters in the Philadelphia suburbs. Several GOP officials here privately say they have seen the bottom drop out in their own party polling since Trump’s 2005 comments to “Access Hollywood” were leaked late Friday.
Team Trump was clearly hoping local media coverage of Ivanka’s events, and her positive comments about her father, will penetrate with female voters.
For Trump to win Pennsylvania, it has to. In 2012, 22% of the total Pennsylvania vote came from the four counties that make up the Philadelphia suburbs. Mitt Romney lost all but one, Chester County, which he barely won.
When Trump visited the Pittsburgh area the day after the last debate, he promised to be back to the Philly suburbs again and again, “because we got to get that vote,” he said.
A group called Women for Trump is feverishly trying to do just that – working the phones at a call center and going door to door – even those who are not thrilled with his behavior.
“I’m a feminist and of course it bothered me,” said Marlene Furgiuele-Mentzer, who was making calls in Delaware County. “However, the topics that are facing this country are far greater than the words on that tape and that’s the bottom line.”
On the suburban Philadelphia streets, some female Trump supporters say they’re motivated by their opposition to Clinton.
“I think she’s a liar. I think she’s a fraud. I think she covers up a lot of things,” said Colleen Green.
But Susan Sluk, the owner of Eat. Drink. Om, a yoga studio in West Chester, Pennsylvania, said her female clients are now more likely to vote Clinton.
“I’m hearing a lot of women that are really starting to dig their heels in and feel empowered about themselves based on what is happening in the campaign,” said Sluk.
That’s true for some who say Clinton is hardly first choice.
“If it were any other Republican candidate, maybe I would try to write Bernie in, but it’s not just a time for a protest vote,” said Hannah Collins.
Every Wednesday night for months, Democrats in these suburbs have held what they call “women to women” phone banks for Clinton. This week, several said Trump’s troubles are making their jobs much easier with many who were far from enthusiastic about the Democratic candidate.
“A number of people have said to me that what was sort of an ‘I’m going to hold my nose and vote for Secretary Clinton’ has now turned into steadfast support,” said Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh.
The question is whether Ivanka Trump, or any Trump, can turn that around in under four weeks.