President Trump and his surrogates, such as Kellyanne Conway, have shifted from defending Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to attacking and mocking Christine Blasey Ford. That is morally despicable, and it might also be dumb politics. (You know the White House thinks the president blew it since White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is now denying that he mocked Ford. Don’t believe your eyes and ears, people.)
Trump is plainly trying to drive up his appeal among resentful white and primarily non-college-educated men. But how many more such voters are out there who aren’t already in his corner?
Exit polls from the 2016 election showed he carried 71 percent of these voters. His appeal among white men and white non-college-educated voters remains high. In the latest Quinnipiac poll, he was in positive territory with white men (56 percent to 38 percent) and with non-college-educated whites overall (58 to 36 percent). By contrast, his lead with white women has disappeared (44 percent approve, 52 percent disapprove) as his approval among women overall has declined (35 percent approve, 60 percent disapprove).
The problem for Trump and his fellow Republicans are the white women who voted for him in the 2016 election (52 percent) but have since fallen off — a lot. CNN’s Ron Brownstein writes:
This consistent shift toward Democrats among well-educated white women is driven mostly by their recoil from Trump. The latest CNN surveys put Trump’s disapproval among college-educated white women at 72% and found that more than three-fifths of them disapproved of him in both Arizona and Tennessee, two states that he carried. Earlier this year a Quinnipiac University survey found that a remarkable three-fourths of those well-educated white women said Trump did not respect women as much as men. (That was 20 percentage points higher than the share of non-college white women who felt that way.) In another Quinnipiac survey last summer, nearly three-fifths of college white women said they considered Trump a racist (while non-college white women split evenly on the question).
It’s logical to assume that Trump and Republicans are at much greater risk of losing more women (Republicans and independents) than they can make up by attracting new men to the GOP side. Men aren’t exactly thrilled with Kavanaugh: “In Monday’s Quinnipiac survey, slightly more of those men said they believed Ford than Kavanaugh,” though a small plurality still backs him.
Heightened opposition among women without compensating gains among men is certainly what is going on in some key races that would normally be easy wins for Republicans. Brownstein points out that “a procession of recent state polls have found the Democrats’ advantage among college-educated white women persisting in every region of the country, not just in liberal states along the coasts. The most recent CNN surveys showed Democrats Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona and Phil Bredesen in Tennessee each carrying almost three-fifths of them.”
There is also the issue of intensity, something we saw play out in Virginia’s off-year elections in 2017, and in the Alabama Senate race. Anger, as Trump should know better than anyone, is a huge motivator. While he may be reassuring his mostly male base, he is now raising the level of animosity among women through the roof. In the most recent Quinnipiac poll, 55 percent of women disapprove of Trump strongly, while only 36 percent of men approve of Trump strongly.
Meanwhile, we’re seeing a slow-motion train wreck in which Trump’s rhetoric gets more offensive by the day, and new questions are raised about Kavanaugh’s temperament and honesty. The latest Reuters poll shows the Supreme Court nominee has lost ground since his angry-man routine last Thursday. Reuters reports: “Opposition among Americans to Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, has increased in the wake of his testimony last week before a U.S. Senate committee in which he defiantly denied sexual misconduct allegations, Reuters/Ipsos polling data showed on Wednesday.”
In fact, opposition to Kavanaugh grew with each day following his testimony:
Opposition rose among Democrats by 6 percentage points to 71 percent and was relatively unchanged among people unaffiliated with a political party compared to before the hearing, according to the poll. Support among Republicans stood at 70 percent, rising 4 percentage points in the days after the hearing, but was lower among Republican women, at 64 percent.
One final note: A lot of those angry female voters have the chance to vote early. (New Jersey, South Dakota and Minnesota are among those already underway; within a week Arizona, Connecticut, Ohio and Indiana will join them.) Trump and his apologists insist they cannot let down his base, but by going about this as only Trump can — with crass insults, cruelty and disregard of reality — he may be accelerating the flight of women from the GOP. After Trump’s performance last night in Mississippi, many may have more incentive than ever to vote, and vote early.
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