Donald Trump’s Female Trouble

by Heather Robinson

Expect Donald Trump to have big trouble in Wisconsin’s primary tomorrow – and beyond.

Female trouble.

Midway through the primary season, Donald Trump’s difficulty attracting women’s support is well acknowledged. But while recent polls have shown that between 70 and 75 percent of registered female voters hold an unfavorable view of the billionaire candidate, Trump’s campaign should be particularly concerned about the potential defection of conservative and independent women voters who might reconsider voting for him following his disastrous week of anti-woman stumbling.

By now most of the country knows about Trump’s defense of his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who last week was slapped with a battery charge for allegedly grabbing a female journalist’s arm hard enough to leave bruises. Then came Trump’s statement that, if abortion became illegal, women undergoing the procedure should be subjected to “some form of punishment.”

But as serious as these lapses were, Trump’s most costly mistake may have been his retweeting of an unflattering photograph of rival Republican candidate Ted Cruz’s wife, Heidi, alongside a glamorous picture of Trump’s own wife, Melania, accompanied by the words, “No need to spill the beans.”

Trump’s tacit message – showing off his spouse’s beauty, presumably in comparison Heidi Cruz – was clear.

The reason this is the gaffe that could cost Trump most is that while most women, like most men, say they vote on the issues, in reality most people vote for President based on their own emotions about a candidate.

Trump hit women where it hurts this past week. And in the privacy of the voting booth, women may well hit him back hard.

Most American women look a lot more like Heidi Cruz than like Melania Trump. And that is at least partly because they, like Heidi and unlike Melania, bear multiple children, and work for a living.

One surefire way to alienate almost any woman is to compare her unfavorably to another woman, especially in terms of her looks. Advice to men: it’s the equivalent of being put down, in public, by a woman for your alleged lack of success, economically and/or sexually, compared to other men. How would you feel about a woman who did this to you? Or to a man with whom you could naturally identify?

Publicly comparing a female’s looks to those of a model is an act that any male over age 10 learns not to do, whether that female is 16 or 86.

But the Donald went there.

While this sensitivity about physical appearance and womanly appeal is something many women may not want to acknowledge is important to them, in terms of self-esteem, it generally is.

In interviews I conducted with over a dozen Republican and Independent female registered voters last week, I heard a softening of support among women who said they had previously considered Trump. And while most of the women I interviewed cited various issues including national security as top concerns, every woman whom I asked about Trump’s treatment of Heidi Cruz expressed outrage and disgust.

Racquel Reinstein, 35, a New York City attorney, says she would have been conflicted in a Hillary vs. Donald race – until now.

“I was willing to consider voting for him if it was Trump versus Hillary, but now because of the way things have progressed and he has revealed himself as an authoritarian, I don’t think I could vote for him,” said Reinstein, an independent voter. “All the stuff about women – Corey Lewandowski’s assault of Michelle Fields and the way Trump treated Cruz’s wife, and the remark about abortion really sealed it for me … If it’s Trump versus Hillary in the general election I will vote for Hillary, no question, no doubt.”

Though a few Republican women said they would still consider voting for Trump in a primary or a general election, they expressed discomfort over his attacks on Heidi Cruz in particular.

“Although Heidi Cruz is not a former model, I think she’s a beautiful woman,” said Michele Luellen, 45, a homemaker and mother of four from Gibsonia, Pa. “She is strong, independent, well educated and successful … Retweeting an unflattering picture of her makes Trump look superficial and pompous … and this isn’t very Presidential.”

“I felt sorry for Heidi Cruz,” said Sahar Hekmati, 39, of Stockbridge, Georgia, a business owner and president of Conservative Republican Women, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting women’s participation in politics. “That is wrong to have someone take your unflattering picture and stick it next to a picture of a model and Tweet it all over the place. Come on Donald, that is low low class.”

Hekmati, a married mother of four, added that, as a Republican activist, she and other Conservative women she knows are acquainted with Heidi Cruz’s work in support of her husband and are impressed by her dedication.

“Heidi Cruz is behind the scenes, she participates in helping her husband fundraise, she makes phone calls for her husband,” said Hekmati. “She’s out there asking, working hard to participate in the process and to me that’s impressive. I hate to say it, but Melania sits pretty and that is not reality for most American women.”

Many Conservative women who will head to the polls in Tuesday’s Wisconsin primary, and later in the general election, pride themselves on being career women, and family women – strong, supportive spouses to their husbands, and active, involved homemakers and mothers – more than on being glamorous women of leisure.

In other words, they identify a lot more with Heidi Cruz than with Melania Trump.

Be careful, Donald.

Because to paraphrase Shakespeare, hell hath no fury like women scorned.