By Ken Feltman
When Donald Trump’s profanity started to get more attention from reporters and political commentators, his support among women fell. The Trump campaign told Radnor that the slip was temporary. They said the women who were speaking out against Trump were not likely to vote for a Republican anyway.
Radnor focus groups and surveys found that the Trump spokespersons might have been right: Republican women who said they were “very concerned” about national security, for example, started returning, slowly, to Trump.
That return ended when Trump commented on Heidi Cruz, Ted Cruz’s wife. The comment triggered another exit by women identifying themselves as Republicans.
In a nationwide telephone poll concluded over the last two nights for a national political organization, 19 percent of the women who identified themselves as Republicans said they could not or would not vote for Trump. That is up from 13% during the height of the “profanity” publicity. 12% said they would “never” vote for Trump in November.
More important is another finding: 9% of Republican women who say they have made a financial contribution to a Republican presidential candidate during the current campaign say they could not or would not vote for Trump and 6% say they would “never” vote for Trump. That’s up from 2% before the Heidi Cruz comment.
These women work as volunteers for Republican candidates. They organize events. They are the backbone of the GOP. Their endorsement lends credibility to a candidate because they are opinion leaders within their community.
The Trump people disagree. They say 6% is a small number and Trump will make it up among Democratic women who will not support Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders and with independents concerned about jobs, immigration and terrorism.
Perhaps, but the Trump people may be forgetting a few things. Even in a presidential election, 2% is a huge number. This is 6% among key GOP women. When a candidate is this unpopular with even a small percentage of key party workers, contributors and volunteers, that candidate tends to lose. The candidate has a harder time changing the minds of people who are actively involved in the party and contribute to candidates. Other voters, less involved, notice when the key party workers are not enthusiastic about a candidate.
Another problem for Trump: When the key party volunteers and contributors make up their minds, they tend to stick with their decisions. Interestingly, several Republicans who are challenging incumbent Democrats report that they see an increase in local Republican leaders, especially women, volunteering for their campaigns.
Drip, drip, drip
One such challenger said, “I thought it would be harder to find volunteers with all the publicity at the presidential level.” The major news media have not spotted this movement by volunteers from the top of the ticket to local candidates. The instances are too few, too local. Even if they do spot it, they will probably consider it “local news” without national significance. Major news outlets look for big trends and big numbers. This is a slow drip, drip, drip.
Is it fatal? No. If Trump stops the offending behavior, some lost supporters – but not all – can be expected to return.
Trump may overcome his mouth. He may not overcome the volunteers, mostly women, who cannot go along with their party’s presidential nominee, just this once.