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With ‘Horseface,’ Trump chose his base over women who could swing the midterms

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 10/17/2018 Eugene Scott
President Trump kisses a "Women for Trump" placard during a 2016 rally in Lakeland, Fla. (MANDEL NGANMANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images) © Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images President Trump kisses a "Women for Trump" placard during a 2016 rally in Lakeland, Fla. (MANDEL NGANMANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Reports of how poorly the Republican Party is doing with female voters have been circulating among party officials for nearly a year, but based on his language, President Trump does not appear to be greatly concerned about that.

In celebrating the dismissal of adult film actress Stormy Daniels’s defamation lawsuit against him — the two for months have been in a legal battle related to a 2016 payment she received to stay silent about her alleged affair with Trump — the president used a tactic he frequently employs against his female critics: He attacked her appearance.

Trump’s decision to attack a high-profile woman, and specifically her appearance, shows that Trump probably does not care about all of the data and reporting saying that women are turned off by his mistreatment of women — especially when it comes to how he chooses to attack them.

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The people Trump appears to care about most are those loyal supporters who backed his campaign in its earliest days after he came out swinging in the politically incorrect ways that have been the foundation of his presidency.

Despite multiple polls showing that not only is the GOP doing poorly with women overall and that the party is losing some of the female voters that supported Trump’s candidacy in 2016, the president continues to say things that many predict will keep women from voting for Republican candidates this fall.

The Washington Post’s Elise Viebeck and Ashley Parker reported on how different White House aides and GOP strategists processed the comments as the Republican Party grapples with the possibility of losing the House in the midterms, perhaps in particular because suburban white women are turning away from Trump.

Politicians and pundits, even within his party, took to news outlets and social media to note just how unhelpful the “Horseface” insult was just three weeks before the midterm elections.

“There’s no place for that. There’s no place for that kind of language. He should not have said that.” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said on “CBS This Morning.”

And Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who also appeared on the morning news show, called Trump’s remarks “unacceptable.”

But many in Trump’s base, including women, apparently feel otherwise: They tweeted support for the president and piled it on Daniels.

Trump’s response wasn’t that surprising if you factor in why so many Americans, including women, backed Trump’s presidency in the first place.

Voters often said they wanted a fighter in the White House who did not just take punches from his critics — regardless of gender — lying down. According to data from Pew Research Center, it is Trump’s combative personality, far more than his policies, that keeps him popular with the base despite his overall unpopularity. And for many of these voters, no battle is worth walking away from.

That’s why when Trump at a Mississippi rally mocked the congressional testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were teenagers, many in the crowd responded with laughs, applause and even chants of “lock her up.”

It is these voters that Trump wants — and needs — to keep energized for the next several weeks, reminding them that he got another conservative judge on the Supreme Court despite the protests of countless women on the left and dismissing data suggesting that there’s a “blue wave” coming in November mainly due to female voters rallying behind female candidates.

After all, even despite his refusal to acknowledge it to an Associated Press reporter on Tuesday, Trump realizes that these midterm elections are being viewed as a referendum on his presidency.

He told a crowd of supporters earlier this month: “I’m not on the ticket, but I am on the ticket because this is also a referendum about me and the disgusting gridlock that they’ll put this country through.”


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