Politics & Government

Trump's support among women: elusive but enthusiastic

NC Republican Women For Trump event

Thursday evening's "North Carolina Republican Women for Trump" Reception and Forum at Trump National Golf Club featured special guests Lara Trump, Lynne Patton, Katrina Pierson and Omarosa Manigault.
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Thursday evening's "North Carolina Republican Women for Trump" Reception and Forum at Trump National Golf Club featured special guests Lara Trump, Lynne Patton, Katrina Pierson and Omarosa Manigault.

Though polls show Hillary Clinton has a double-digit lead over Donald Trump among female voters, the women who support the Republican presidential candidate say they’re proud, patriotic and excited.

About 200 of them – and a few men – rallied at Trump National Golf Club Charlotte for a “Women for Trump” event Thursday evening. The event featured key female figures involved in Trump’s campaign – his daughter-in-law Lara Trump; national campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson; Omarosa Manigault, director of African-American outreach and former contestant on “The Apprentice”; and philanthropy executive Lynne Patton.

They dressed patriotically, two wearing straw hats festooned with red and blue ribbons. They knew about Trump’s comments about women that have continued to face scrutiny – calling Rosie O’Donnell “disgusting”; retweeting an unflattering picture of Heidi Cruz; and on Monday saying his daughter would likely find another career if she experienced sexual harassment – but they chalked it up to media bias.

“I don’t hear anything anti-women in what Trump says,” said Karen Carty, president of Iredell County Republican Women. “Trump just says what’s in his heart. I can tell he loves America, and he’s my guy.”

The event began with Lara Trump and Maginault leading the crowd in a rowdy cheer: “When I say ‘Trump train,’ y’all have to say ‘choo choo!’”

Though their support was loud, polls say it’s not common. The Washington Post-ABC polls have reported all year that at least 65 percent of women surveyed hold an unfavorable view of the Republican candidate. Forty percent of women found Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee four years ago, unfavorable in the same poll in 2012.

No candidate has won the presidency, or even come close, with so little support from women since before 1980, but Tom Jensen, director of Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling, said it’s still a possibility.

“You can lose women and win men and still get elected,” Jensen said. But as Trump continues to lose female voters, Jensen said, Trump would have to pull up his numbers with men enough to compensate for Clinton’s significant overall lead.

A new McClatchy-Marist poll found Clinton with a 15-point lead over Trump. The poll found Clinton leading Trump 50 to 30 percent among women.

Martha Kropf, a public policy professor at UNC Charlotte, said the female voters who already support Trump likely don’t need convincing. That includes the fiery support from the women at Thursday’s rally. But there also are female Republican voters who won’t forget his remarks about women, but will hold their noses and vote for him, Kropf said.

Trump is unlikely to sway moderate female voters if he hasn’t already, Kropf said. Jensen said Trump would need to seriously change his act to stop losing female support. But the women who already support him don’t seem to want him to change.

“We want somebody different, we want somebody outside the establishment. And then we get him and we get this business mogul, we get this tiger, and then we want to cage him,” said Raleigh-area campaign volunteer Kim Coley.

Though other women might be excited to put their vote toward the historic possibility of the first female president, these women in Mooresville were more enthusiastic about Trump. They like that he comes from outside of politics and, as they see it, isn’t afraid to speak his mind and stand up against illegal immigration, ISIS and government overreach.

“He wants to keep our country safe, and as mothers, many women are concerned about the future of our country, how it’s gonna affect their kids,” Lara Trump said. The audience included several women who had served in the military, as well as the mother of a Marine Corps veteran suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The speakers emphasized the value of strong women and Lara Trump said she’d love to vote for the first female president, but Clinton shouldn’t be that person.

“Let’s get our country back in order and put the best candidate in office, man, woman, black, white, whatever it is,” Lara Trump said. “You should vote for whoever is going to run the country better, and that’s Donald Trump.”

She said as far as Trump’s view of women, his actions speak louder than his words.

“He is one of the first men I know in New York City to have a female head of a construction crew. He has more female executives in his organization than he does men, and I think that speaks to what he feels about women,” she said.

Video bloggers and North Carolina natives Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, known by their stage name Diamond and Silk, also spoke and provided some laughs.

“We don’t need ovaries in the Oval Office,” Richardson shouted. It’s more important, she said, to have someone with the tenacity to crack down on immigration with a wall.

The crowd cheered.

Rachel Herzog: 704-358-5358, @rachel_herzog

Other Trump events

The women of the Trump campaign also met with the local GOP auxiliaries Friday. They will attend an African-American forum at Trump National Golf Club Charlotte Saturday from 12 to 3 p.m., and a rally at noon Sunday at Antioch Road to Glory International Ministries, an African-American church whose pastor endorsed Trump in July.