When Kellyanne Conway took the reins of Donald Trump’s campaign in mid-August, she looked around at how to expand his voting base. Minorities looked unlikely to vote for Trump, and he already had white men. The best group to target, she found, was white women.
Conway, who wrote a book, What Women Really Want, with Democratic pollster Celinda Lake in 2005, was the ideal person to achieve that: She has long focused on turning out the women’s vote for GOP candidates. So she set about to make Trump more appealing to women. She had him introduce a paid family medical leave initiative with his daughter. To mitigate the perception of racism, she had him campaign with African-American pastors in Detroit. She also was just about the only staffer who managed to tamp down Trump’s baser instincts and keep him on message—at least for a while.
The strategy seemed to be working. By mid-September, Trump and rival Hillary Clinton were nearly tied, according to an average of national polls by RealClearPolitics. Then came the first presidential debate and Trump’s Miss Universe meltdown, followed by the release of a tape where Trump bragged about how his fame enabled him to grab women by the genitals with impunity. And to cap off Trump’s dismal month with women, this week a flood of women have come forth to say that Trump sexually assaulted them. All of which blew Conway’s careful strategy to appeal to white women voters to hell.
Recent polls show women moving away from Trump post haste. A PRRI/The Atlantic poll released October 11 showed Clinton leading Trump amongst women 61 percent to 28 percent, a five-point drop for Trump’s support amongst women from a similar poll done just one week earlier. A CBS News poll of battleground states out October 16 found Clinton’s support amongst women up six percentage points to 51 percent from last month, while Trump was down four percentage points to 36 percent. And Quinnipiac survey taken October 5-6 found Trump’s support steadier amongst women—36 percent, the same as in a similar poll from September. But saw a surge for Clinton, whose support amongst women in the same period rose from 54 percent to 58 percent.
If only women voted in this election, Clinton would win 458 electoral votes to Trump’s 80, according to modeling done by FiveThirtyEight.
The most striking swing has been amongst white non-college-educated women, usually one of the most reliably Republican of voting groups. In the last three elections, Republicans have won these women by margins of 19 points in 2004, 17 points in 2008 and 20 points in 2012. And yet, the PRRI/The Atlantic poll found them split evenly for Clinton and Trump, 40 percent to 40 percent.
That one demographic all but dooms Trump’s already maimed campaign. Women have swung every election since Ronald Reagan. Republicans have only won the White House in the last 20 years by driving out the male vote—which Trump is doing—and mitigating the loss of women to less than ten percentage points. This is where Trump is failing: He’s losing women overall by 15 percentage points, according to an average of polls by FiveThirtyEight.
Indeed, things are so bad, Trump himself acknowledged the problem in a tweet on Sunday:
Trump is unlikely to make up those votes amongst minorities and it’s hard to imagine him turning out white men in even greater numbers without also driving higher minority turnout for Clinton, which would offset those gains. His one shot to win the White House rested on convincing women voters to vote for him. Turns out, even when you’re famous like Trump, there are some things women won’t tolerate from you.