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Trump Campaign Launches Initiative To Win More Women Voters In 2020

Jul 16, 2019
Originally published on July 16, 2019 9:01 pm
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President Trump's reelection campaign is in full swing, and today, he went to one of the states he barely won in 2016 to reach out to a group of voters that he lost by a big margin. NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben reports.

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: President Trump has not done very well with women voters. At the Women for Trump kickoff in King of Prussia, Pa., today, Trump adviser Kimberly Guilfoyle nodded to that fact, in a way.

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KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE: If you ask the mainstream media - right? - they say we don't exist. They don't want to agree and admit that women are proud to stand for President Trump.

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KURTZLEBEN: Of course, plenty of women did support Trump in 2016. White women, for example, were about evenly split. But a recent YouGov/Economist poll shows that Trump's net approval among women overall is now at negative 20 points. Improving those numbers even a little could be particularly important here in the suburbs of Philadelphia in a state he won by fewer than 45,000 votes.

So I asked Trump supporters, does Trump need to do anything else to appeal to more women? Here's Kathy Castrogiovanni from East Stroudsburg.

KATHY CASTROGIOVANNI: I don't think we're really all that special that we need to be pampered. We can listen to the news, and we can make decisions just like the big boys.

KURTZLEBEN: There is a tension in reaching out to women specifically in a party that tends to decry so-called identity politics. GOP chairwoman Ronna McDaniel criticized Democrats for their outreach to women.

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RONNA MCDANIEL: The difference between our party and the Democrats is we treat women as the whole voter. Women care about health care. We care about education. We care about our military. We care about our economy. And yes, we do care about the unborn.

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KURTZLEBEN: Trump's message to women sounds a lot like his message to all voters - the economy is booming, the news media can't be trusted, and Democrats are too extreme. Guilfoyle invoked young progressive Democrats, like New York's Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in firing up the crowd.

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GUILFOYLE: It's the Democrats that are having trouble with women. Oh, boy. You got a few of them getting a little unruly and giving Mama Pelosi a hard time.

KURTZLEBEN: Hanging over this event was a series of racist tweets from the president in which he told young Democratic congresswomen, like Ocasio-Cortez, to go back to, quote, "the places from which they came."

Rose Yerka from Woodbury Heights, N.J., supports the president but didn't love the tweets.

ROSE YERKA: I pray for him, sometimes, to keep his mouth shut because he's - I wouldn't want his job. It would be hard not to respond in like kind. But hopefully, he will not do so, or he'll learn his lesson because I heard he did offend a lot of people, and that's unfortunate.

KURTZLEBEN: But some were more sympathetic to Trump, like Diana Richter from Long Island.

DIANA RICHTER: You know what? I have, in my past - I've told somebody, you know what? Go home. Go home, or if you don't like it here - and I don't even mean just the country - my town - don't change where we're living. You change your residence. And that's how I really feel. And that's not racist at all. It has nothing to do with race. It has to do with belief.

KURTZLEBEN: Regardless of the controversy over the tweets, the event had a pep rally feel to it. And knowing that Trump will be fighting hard to keep the state, local Democrats are assessing what they could do better.

Michele Vaughn is chair of the Chester County Democratic Women's Leadership Initiative.

MICHELE VAUGHN: We cannot be complacent about our area just carrying the entire state. We're going to have to work harder and get the Democratic - Democrats out to vote and really organize at the grassroots level in a stronger way. That's what I - that's the change I see.

KURTZLEBEN: Vaughn, like many Democrats, says she expected Hillary Clinton to win in 2016. Now, as 2020 approaches, she, like the Trump supporters at this kickoff, knows that he can win.

Danielle Kurtzleben, NPR News, King of Prussia, Pa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.