How Trump can win over women voters
© Getty Images

@RealDonaldTrump, we need to talk.

As you return to Washington this Thursday, I'm sure you're aware that you've got a problem with women voters. Three out of four of us have an unfavorable opinion of you. The Democrats have decided that you'll make the perfect poster boy for the new, hyper-charged edition of their "Republican War on Women" campaign. And if the gender gap — the margin by which women have voted for Democrats over Republicans in the last several elections — turns into a "gender canyon," you'll lose the 2016 presidential election in a landslide.

ADVERTISEMENT

It doesn't have to be this way. I've spoken with thousands of women around the country over the past year, and I believe that you can win over a majority of them. But you're going to have to make some changes in your tone and focus on the issues that women care about most.

Likely Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillicon Valley: China implicated in Microsoft breach | White House adds Big Tech critic | QAnon unfazed after false prediction Jill Biden redefines role of first lady QAnon supporters unfazed after another false prediction MORE's campaign is built around the proposition that she will make history by becoming the first woman president. And yet I've encountered very few women who believe that anyone should vote for a candidate solely because of her gender — and many women aren't convinced that Clinton is the politician best qualified to be the first female president. You saw that in women's overwhelmingly negative reaction this spring to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's assertion that there would be "a special place in hell" for women who didn't vote for Clinton.

On the other hand, women are going to resent it if you seem to minimize Clinton's accomplishments just because she’s a woman. Mary Pat Christie, the wife of the New Jersey governor, wasn't the only one rolling her eyes when you claimed that Clinton wouldn't "get 5 percent of the vote" if she were a man and accused her of playing "the women's card." And remember how effectively former presidential candidate Carly Fiorina called you out in the GOP debates for insulting her appearance? You can criticize Clinton fiercely without stooping to gender-based attacks.

The Democratic Party and allied groups like EMILY's List are going to spend a fortune this year trying to frighten women into believing that you'll deprive them of the "right to choose." You can take a leaf out of Republican Sen. Cory GardnerCory GardnerBiden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program Gardner to lead new GOP super PAC ahead of midterms OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule | Bureau of Land Management exodus: Agency lost 87 percent of staff in Trump HQ relocation | GM commits to electric light duty fleet by 2035 MORE's 2014 election playbook in Colorado, when he refused to be thrown on the defensive by the "one-issue campaign" Democrats waged against him on abortion. He recognized that women care about a lot more than just hot-button social issues — and, indeed, all issues are women's issues.

National security, for example, is extremely important to women. Women want their families and loved ones to be safe, and they understand that we need a strong and prepared military as well as a government that can defend us against terrorism. You'd gain a lot of support from women by advancing a consistent and compelling program of national preparedness, including plans to protect against the growing threat of cyberattack. And you'd seal the deal by showing that you understand the particular problems faced by women service members and veterans.

Women care deeply about the economy and the businesses that drive job growth. In fact, did you know that women now own 38 percent of the nation's businesses and women-owned startups are growing much faster than the market as a whole? With your business experience and acumen, you'd make a great champion for women entrepreneurs — and you could point out that they still face more difficulties than men in terms of limited access to capital and fewer opportunities for mentorship and support.

Really, one of the best ways that you can counter the Democrats' identity-politics approach to women is to show that you identify with women's true concerns beyond the usual partisan symbolism. Women are just as worried as men about the disappearance of good, middle-class jobs. Women want their government to sustain equality of opportunity through programs like early childhood education and measures to make college more affordable. Women want leaders who understand that they still bear a heavier burden than men when it comes to balancing work and care of children. And women want help in dealing with the problems of mental health, opioid addiction and other forms of substance abuse that afflict so many American families.

Do you have any women's advisory groups? Have you thought about building some events just for women into your schedule? A new report from the Republican National Committee has emphasized that Republicans won't win the votes of minorities or women unless they move beyond the old model of "outreach" to a new model of "inclusion." It would do wonders for your image if you could engage in a respectful back-and-forth with an audience of women, showing that you've thought seriously about the issues that matter most to them and have policy proposals to address them.

I hope you'll consider that in the emerging era of political campaigning, presidential races are going to be decided by narrow margins in swing states. Narrowing or even reversing the gender gap could mean the difference between victory and defeat for the Trump campaign this November.

Chamberlain is president of the Republican Main Street Partnership.