As Megyn Kelly Interview Looms, Trump Desperately Needs Support of Women
Whether they love him or hate him, most Americans who watched the first Republican debate last summer remember Donald Trump’s fight with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly.
After Kelly asked Trump a tough question regarding his record of degrading and insulting remarks about women, Trump called in to CNN and said of Kelly, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her — wherever.”
Several New York City female voters whom I interviewed last week said Trump’s comments were “terrible,” ”horrible,” “demeaning” and “insulting, not just to Megyn Kelly, but to all women.”
Of the nearly two-dozen New York City women I surveyed, only one said it “didn’t matter,” because “[Trump] treats women the same way he treats everyone else.”
Granted, Trump’s treatment of the Fox News anchor is only one example of his many stumbles on women’s issues during the past nine months on the campaign trail. But when he sits down and goes face-to-face with Kelly on May 17 for a highly anticipated primetime interview, the candidate will have the chance to redeem himself and appeal to a bloc of voters he sorely needs.
If Trump is to have any chance of beating Hillary Clinton this Fall, he needs to convince a sizable number of women voters to cross over and support him.
While Trump won a majority of female Republican voters in Pennsylvania and Connecticut late last month, and Trump rallies attract a plethora of female support, recent polls of the general electorate suggest that the candidate has a battle ahead to win the hearts and minds of American women: an April Gallup poll showed that Trump has a 70 percent disapproval rating among women, and a Washington Post/ABC news poll conducted last month showed the percentage of women disapproving of Trump even higher, at 75 percent.
Most recent polls show Hillary Clinton beating Trump handily in a general election, in large measure because she has the solid support of several large blocs of voters — including single women, one of the country’s fastest growing demographic groups.
On Trump’s home turf of New York City, women voters interviewed last week suggest that he has his work cut out for him.
Some New York City women volunteered that Trump’s rhetoric towards women, including Megyn Kelly, is part of the reason they would never vote for him.
“It was completely disgusting, inhumane, and unworthy of someone who wants to lead the country — something you’d expect an Internet troll to say, not someone running for president,” said Irina Tsukerman, 31, a human rights attorney and registered Republican who lives on Brighton Beach. “Misogynists have caught on and he has brought these men out of the woodwork.”
Tsukerman added that while some may say policy should take precedence over rhetoric, “having him legitimize that sort of attitude toward women [in the US when in many parts of the world the world women are dehumanized … is damaging.”
“Megyn Kelly provoked him in such a way that he could no longer control it, and being the man he is, he felt he didn’t need to, and he just let it go,” said Gloria Gersch, 80, retired, an Upper East Side Democrat who said there is nothing Trump could do to earn her vote. Gersch added that she would like to see a businessman be president, and her problem with Trump is not his lack of foreign policy experience, because “he could learn,” but that his behavior, including towards Megyn Kelly, suggested to her that, “he is an egomaniac.”
Some, though not Trump supporters, said they would keep an open mind.
“What worries me about him is his saying women should be punished for having abortions, or speaking inappropriately about women,” said Allie Zur, 29, a registered Republican who identifies as an Independent, of Prospect Park, and who works in fundraising. “There are going to be women who anger him if he is president, and he can’t say those things.”
Regarding his upcoming televised rematch with Kelly, Zur said, “If he did apologize for everything he said about women, I’d listen, but he has to keep in mind you can’t just erase words once they’ve been said.”
A couple of women mentioned that they don’t want to rush to judge Trump’s character based on sound bites, and cited daughter Ivanka as evidence he is not a misogynist. “Listen, you don’t raise nice children, [including] a successful daughter [Ivanka], if you abuse women,” said one woman, Batia, 67, of Sheepshead Bay, an Israeli-American business owner.
The election of 2016 will go down in history as one in which women largely determine the outcome, and not just because Hillary Clinton is the first female major party candidate to have an excellent shot at the presidency.
In pursuing the votes of women whose trust he must earn, Trump would do well to keep in mind what any good polemicist learns: you cannot simultaneously insult and persuade.