Women wield sizable power in ‘Me Too’ midterms

Women wield sizable power in ‘Me Too’ midterms
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

College-educated women energized by the “Me Too” movement and annoyed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight South Korea leader: North Korea agrees to take steps toward denuclearization Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' MORE are increasingly being seen as a problem for Republicans in this year’s election season, particularly in the House.

The voting bloc is historically the most likely to turn out for a midterm election, and it is expected to play a particularly outsized role this November given a political climate colored by a contentious Supreme Court fight centered on abortion rights and a cascading series of sexual harassment charges against prominent men.

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“This is the year of the fired up, female college graduate. They are the fuel for this Democratic wave,” David Wasserman, House editor of the Cook Political Report, told The Hill. “They have a history of turning out in large numbers in midterms. But now, they’re even more motivated.”

“That dynamic is a big reason why Republicans are headed for losses,” he added.

Some of the most competitive House races this fall are in suburban swing districts, where college-educated women — a group that went for Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton: FBI investigation into Kavanaugh could be done quickly Hillary Clinton urges Americans to 'check and reject' Trump's 'authoritarian tendencies' by voting in midterms EXCLUSIVE: Trump says exposing ‘corrupt’ FBI probe could be ‘crowning achievement’ of presidency MORE over Trump in 2016 — form a crucial voting bloc.

The question for Democrats, Republicans and Trump this fall is whether they will make up an even bigger portion of the 2018 electorate — and whether the proportion voting for Democratic candidates will rise.

The warning signs for the GOP include the record number of women who may end up serving in the next Congress.

A historic 100 women may be elected to the House next year, according to the Cook Political Report.

And Democratic women have had far more success in their primaries, with 180 women winning House primaries, compared with 52 for the GOP, according to the Center for American Women and Politics.

Strategists say that the same factors mobilizing female voters on the left are also inspiring women to run for office.

“When something like the election of Donald Trump happens — and subsequently everything we’ve seen in office — you really see what happens when there are people who don’t look like you in office,” said one Democratic operative who used to work for EMILY’S List, which recruits and supports female Democratic candidates.

“That’s why so many women have stepped up to run. They realize, ‘No one is going to fight for me or the people like me, so I am going to step up and do it myself.’ ”

Opposition to Trump from women has been a visible part of the presidency since the day after his inauguration, when millions poured into the streets for “women’s marches” on Jan. 21, 2017.

Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” became a phenomenon later that year, culminating in a series of Emmys last September.

At confirmation hearings last week for Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, women showed up dressed in “Handmaid’s Tale” costumes to sound the alarm that abortion and other health-care rights for women could be on the chopping block.

“This is clearly a broad reaction to Trump’s election,” Wasserman said. “Never before have we seen this group so adamantly opposed to a president in a midterm year.”

In an ominous sign for Republicans, just 30 percent of women and 30 percent of college graduates approve of Trump’s job performance, according to an ABC News-Washington Post poll published last week.

A strong turnout among female college graduates could help power a blue wave this November, when Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats to take back control of the House. Historically, the president’s party loses around 30 seats in the midterms.

“Normally, this demographic is pretty evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. But recent polls show they are moving in a very Democratic direction,” said Susan J. Carroll, professor of political science and women’s and gender studies at Rutgers University.

“If there is a wave, these women will be a big part of the story.”

Republicans know how imperative it is to court college-educated women.

The Republican Main Street Partnership has conducted focus groups with women to pinpoint which issues matter most to them, in the hopes of providing an election roadmap for GOP candidates around the country.

But even though many female college graduates feel good about the economy, they don’t feel the same way about the president’s behavior and rhetoric.

“What we found is, they like a lot of the policies — they don’t like all of the tweeting,” said Sarah Chamberlain, president and CEO of the Republican Main Street Partnership.

Trump’s tweets, which include calling former aide Omarosa Manigault NewmanOmarosa Onee Manigault NewmanWoodward book breaks 93-year publishing record Stormy Daniels announces new tell-all book: 'Full Disclosure' Women wield sizable power in ‘Me Too’ midterms MORE a “dog” and labeling Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersKavanaugh hires attorney amid sexual assault allegations: report Scalise: Democrats need to denounce political violence Women wield sizable power in ‘Me Too’ midterms MORE (D-Calif.) as “low-IQ,” have consistently created headaches for the GOP.

Congressional Republicans have also had to deal with a never-ending stream of controversies out of the White House, from allegations that Trump tried to cover up an affair with porn star Stormy Daniels to Bob Woodward’s new book that makes a number of explosive claims about the president, including that he told an unnamed friend to never admit to any wrongdoing with women.

“These are women who pay attention to the news. I think a lot of them will hear about the Woodward book, the Omarosa book,” Carroll said. “They hear all these things about the Trump administration and how erratic his behavior is reported to be. I think they are disturbed and fearful for the country.”

Trump famously survived the “Access Hollywood” controversy from October 2016, when audio was released of him talking vulgarly about grabbing a woman “by the p----” while speaking with the show’s host, Billy Bush.

Trump still won a majority of white women in that year’s election against Clinton, the first woman nominated for president by a major party.

Whether Trump’s GOP allies can survive this year’s elections represents another question.

Liz Mair, a GOP strategist, said she doesn’t think the Daniels scandal alone will cost Republicans their House majority, but that it adds to the reasons why college-educated women are “disenchanted with Republicans.”

“That demographic is probably going to be very tricky for Republicans this year,” Mair said. “Some of them did vote for the president — more than Clinton’s campaign expected — but they are also people who are very turned off by the way a lot of things have been run since he assumed office. They don’t like the daily drama that you see coming from the party as a whole.”