Boogeywomen — GOP vilifies big-name female Dems

Boogeywomen — GOP vilifies big-name female Dems

Republicans have made attacks on high-profile Democratic women a key part of their strategy for holding onto congressional majorities.

The GOP aims to cast rank-and-file Democrats as puppets of House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiNancy Pelosi: Will she remain the ‘Face of the Franchise’? Pelosi: GOP's 2019 agenda a 'nightmare' for working families, seniors Dem lawmakers slam Trump’s declassification of Russia documents as ‘brazen abuse of power’ MORE (Calif.), Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenElection Countdown: Trump confident about midterms in Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh controversy tests candidates | Sanders, Warren ponder if both can run | Super PACs spending big | Two states open general election voting Friday | Latest Senate polls On The Money: Midterms to shake up House finance panel | Chamber chief says US not in trade war | Mulvaney moving CFPB unit out of DC | Conservatives frustrated over big spending bills Warren suggests Mulvaney broke law by speaking to GOP donors MORE (Mass.) and other Democratic boogeymen, calculating that suburban and rural voters won’t want to replace their Republican lawmakers with Democrats beholden to the party’s power brokers.

But while those tactics fire up President TrumpDonald John TrumpLondon terror suspect’s children told authorities he complained about Trump: inquiry The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Trump to nominate retiring lawmaker as head of trade agency MORE’s conservative base, it risks turning off the suburban and college-educated women seen as crucial voting blocs in the fall — especially since so many of the GOP targets happen to be women.

“Republicans need to be careful and smart about the language they use when they’re critical of female opponents,” Doug Heye, a GOP strategist, said in a telephone interview with The Hill.

Trump has repeatedly ripped “low IQ” Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersOn The Money: Midterms to shake up House finance panel | Chamber chief says US not in trade war | Mulvaney moving CFPB unit out of DC | Conservatives frustrated over big spending bills The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — The Hill interviews President Trump Midterms to shake up top posts on House finance panel MORE (D-Calif.) and “total flunky” Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandGillibrand: Kavanaugh accuser shouldn't participate in 'sham' hearing Booker: It would be ‘irresponsible’ not to consider running for president Ex-GOP donor urges support for Dems in midterms: 'Democracy is at stake' MORE (D-N.Y.).

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He’s also insulted Warren over her claims of Native American heritage, repeatedly referring to her as “Pocahontas.”

And Republicans across the country have run ads highlighting the dangers of putting Pelosi and Waters in power. If Democrats win the House majority this fall, Pelosi could become the Speaker again, while Waters would lead the Financial Services Committee.

To be sure, some Republican ads have also gone after male progressive figures, such as Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersThe Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Election Countdown: Trump confident about midterms in Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh controversy tests candidates | Sanders, Warren ponder if both can run | Super PACs spending big | Two states open general election voting Friday | Latest Senate polls READ: President Trump’s exclusive interview with Hill.TV MORE (I-Vt.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle READ: President Trump’s exclusive interview with Hill.TV The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump slams Sessions in exclusive Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh accuser wants FBI investigation MORE (D-N.Y.).

But the starring roles of prominent Democratic women in the GOP attacks is notable, and could lead to both rewards and risks.

“Trump and the GOP are really playing with fire,” said Brad Bannon, a Democratic strategist. “This is going to jeopardize the support Republicans have with these suburban, college-educated female voters, some of whom voted for Trump in 2016.”

Congressional Republicans have made Pelosi the star of a number of attack ads around the country, tying her to Republican targets and branding her as a liberal coastal elitist who would steer the party far left if Democrats win back the House.

“Dishonest Danny would vote with Pelosi to raise taxes and give amnesty to millions of illegals,” said one attack ad against Democrat Danny O’Connor, who lost in an Ohio special election against Republican Troy Balderson last week, but is facing off against him again in November.

“His campaign is bankrolled by Pelosi,” said another attack ad aimed at Andy Kim, who is running for a House seat in New Jersey. “Andy Kim is a Pelosi liberal. He is not one of us.”

“Nancy Pelosi and Anthony Brindisi’s liberal agenda is too extreme for upstate New York,” said another ad promoting Rep. Claudia Tenney's (R) reelection race.

Using Pelosi as a liberal punching bag is hardly a new playbook for Republicans. But the GOP is also ramping up attacks on Warren, Waters and New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The Republican National Committee this week compared Ocasio-Cortez, who quickly became a liberal star after her primary defeat of Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), to a “mini-Maduro,” referring to the authoritarian Venezuelan leader.

In what is being dubbed as the “year of the woman,” where a record number of female candidates are running for office, some strategists have warned Republicans to be careful not to cross a line when they criticize women.

“Those kind of things can backfire very quickly, and it’s important to be smart and precise to avoid that,” Heye said. “You can still be critical of them, it just needs to be thought-through.”

While the White House has argued that Trump is an “equal opportunist” when it comes to lobbing insults, some of his most sustained and biting attacks have been directed at women in the Democratic party.

And in recent months, Waters — a veteran lawmaker and woman of color who has been one of the loudest champions of Trump’s impeachment — has become public enemy No. 1 in the president’s eyes.

Trump has called Waters “crazy,” “unhinged” and “extraordinarily low-IQ” — lines of attack that some critics have called sexist and racially charged.

He has also tried to paint both her and Pelosi, two California liberals, as the face of the Democratic Party.

“Crazy Maxine Waters, said by some to be one of the most corrupt people in politics, is rapidly becoming, together with Nancy Pelosi, the FACE of the Democrat Party,” Trump tweeted in July. “Her ranting and raving, even referring to herself as a wounded animal, will make people flee the Democrats!”

Trump’s attacks on prominent women aren’t limited to Democrats. Earlier this week, he lashed out at his former White House aide Omarosa Manigault NewmanOmarosa Onee Manigault NewmanSales of political books up 25 percent in 2018: report Woodward book breaks 93-year publishing record Stormy Daniels announces new tell-all book: 'Full Disclosure' MORE following the release of her tell-all memoir “Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House,” calling the “Apprentice” alumna a "crazed, crying lowlife” and a “dog.”

Trump repeatedly came under fire for his treatment of women during the 2016 campaign, particularly after the release of his hot-mic “Access Hollywood” tape, yet he still was elected to the White House — and over the first female major party presidential nominee.

But some strategists say the political environment is much different this time around.

Not only has the “Me Too” movement changed the national dialogue when it comes to women speaking out, but the Senate will soon start hearings to confirm conservative Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, where Democrats have warned that abortion and other women’s rights will be on the chopping block.

“If you put all these pieces together, you’re looking at a situation that’s going to cause a lot of trouble for Republicans in competitive House seats,” Bannon said.

The attacks on women could also give fuel to the Democratic argument that their party is more friendly to women, both from a policy and political standpoint.

“When you start comparing women candidates to dictators, and the president goes out and calls former staffers dogs, that does not help the Republican side of things. It only energizes Democrats,” Tara Setmayer, a former GOP communications director on Capitol Hill, told CNN on Friday.

While Republicans have recruited a record-breaking number of women to run for office, they are still lagging behind Democratic women, who far outnumber their Republican counterparts on Capitol Hill. The GOP is also poised to lose 25 percent of their female members next year due to retirements or members seeking higher office.

And if Democrats win the House in November, 35 women are poised to lead committees and subcommittees in the next Congress — a historically high figure that would put female lawmakers in the driver's seat for some of the most pressing issues facing Congress and the country. That could further galvanize female voters in the midterm elections.

“Look at how well women are doing in Democratic primaries,” Bannon said. “Something is going on there. Women are activated.”