Trump attacks fuel GOP fears about losing suburban women

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats claim victory as Trump gets battered in court Juan Williams: Anti-abortion extremism is on the rise Trump feels squeeze in tax return fight MORE's personal attacks on women are fueling GOP fears that the party may lose suburban female voters in November.

The president's latest insult — aimed at adult-film actress Stormy Daniels — comes just three weeks before the midterm elections and right on the heels of a bruising confirmation battle over Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughDemocratic groups gear up to use abortion rights as attack on GOP in 2020 Murkowski celebrates birthday with electric scooter ride Graham urges Trump not to abandon infrastructure talks with Democrats MORE.

Republican lawmakers were quick to condemn Trump's offensive remarks calling Daniels “Horseface.”

ADVERTISEMENT

“There is no place for that kind of language … he should not have said that,'' Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAmash storm hits Capitol Hill Debate with Donald Trump? Just say no Ex-Trump adviser says GOP needs a better health-care message for 2020 MORE (R-Wis.), who is usually measured in his criticism of the president, told CBS on Wednesday.

Rep. Chris StewartChristopher (Chris) Douglas StewartCBO: Medicare for All gives 'many more' coverage but 'potentially disruptive' A new age for tobacco — raising the age to 21 is a smart move Barr testimony opens new partisan fight over FBI spying on Trump MORE (R-Utah) called the attack “unpresidential” and “rude,” lamenting that Trump’s behavior on Twitter undermines the GOP’s accomplishments.

At the same time, some question whether the attacks matter in the Trump era. Trump repeatedly attacked the physical appearance of his female adversaries during the 2016 presidential race and still won the White House, skeptics note.

“It's just another tweet in an ongoing pattern,” said GOP strategist Liz Mair. “When you constantly behave in an outrageous fashion, people get immunized and numb to that.”

There’s no doubt that Republicans would prefer to talk about the economy, jobs and taxes in the final campaign stretch rather than fielding questions from local reporters about what they think of Trump’s remark about Daniels.

The tweet came a day after a federal judge threw out a defamation suit from the adult-film actress, who alleges she had an affair with Trump in 2006. The judge ordered her to pay Trump’s legal fees.

Dealing with questions about the president’s comments is nothing new for Republicans on the campaign trail. The “horseface” remark is just the latest in a string of crude and sometimes racially tinged attacks that the president has lobbed at women.

Trump has called former White House aide Omarosa Manigault NewmanOmarosa Onee Manigault NewmanTrump's nastiest break-ups: A look at the president's most fiery feuds Donald Trump Jr. inks book deal Lawsuit alleges Trump campaign paid women less than men MORE a “dog,” labeled Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersDemocrats claim victory as Trump gets battered in court Trump appeals order siding with House Democrats bank subpoenas Republicans spend more than million at Trump properties MORE (D-Calif.) as “extraordinarily low-IQ,” described an ex-Miss Universe as “Miss Piggy” and branded Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenMillions of taxpayer dollars fueled Bernie Sanders to wealth success Robert Smith's gift to Morehouse graduates and its meaning for education, especially black colleges Teflon Joe? Biden brushes off attacks MORE (D-Mass.) “Pocahontas” in reference to her claims of Native American heritage.

Even Republicans who support Trump’s policies are deeply frustrated with his rhetoric, which they worry will further push away moderate and independent women from the party. Even if voters annoyed by Trump’s comments don’t vote for Democrats, they may feel so fed up with the nasty political climate that they will just sit out the election all together.

“I really wish he’d stop tweeting. We’re two and a half weeks out [from the midterm elections],” said Sarah Chamberlain, president and CEO of the Republican Main Street Partnership. “I would hope he puts down his phone and focuses on the issues and keeps doing his job.”

Republicans are defending dozens of vulnerable seats this fall, many of which are in suburban swing districts, where college-educated women are expected to form a crucial voting bloc.

And there are signs that the GOP may be in serious trouble with women who hold college degrees.

The group narrowly went for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTester will endorse a 2020 candidate 'in the next week' Democratic candidates should counter Trump's foreign policy 2020 Democrats jockey over surging college costs MORE in 2016, but a recent Washington Post–Schar School survey shows that college-educated white women in key battleground races favor Democrats over Republicans by a whopping 27-point margin.

“This targeted group of suburban women voters has been over this guy for a pretty long time,” Mair said. “But women don’t like being insulted in terms of their appearance, and so this is gonna hit some deeper emotional note.”

Trump repeatedly came under fire for his treatment of women during the 2016 campaign, particularly after the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape where he can be heard talking vulgarly about how his fame lets him get away “with anything” when it comes to women.

Weeks after the release of the tape, however, 52 percent of white women voted for Trump and not Clinton, the first woman to be a major party’s candidate for president, according to exit polls.

Some strategists point out that the political environment is much different today.

The national “Me Too” movement has inspired a record number of women to run for office and has fired up female voters, who could power a blue wave in November if Republicans fail to win enough of them over.

Strategists say that independent and moderate women are not monolithic, however, and some might have stronger feelings about Trump's tweets than others. The most competitive races are taking place in a diverse range of American suburbs, including in Texas, Illinois, California and Pennsylvania.

While most females will likely find the “horseface” insult inappropriate, some women will vote more on their policy preferences than their personal feelings toward the president, according to Chamberlain.

The Republican Main Street Partnership, which has conducted a number of focus groups with women, has found that female voters generally tend to care most about “kitchen table” issues like health care, safety and education.

“They like his policies — they don't like the tweets,” Chamberlain said.

On Wednesday, Trump fired off another tweet aimed at women — this time, pushing back against the idea that he is exacerbating the GOP’s problem with college-educated female voters.

“College educated women want safety, security and healthcare protections — very much along with financial and economic health for themselves and our Country,” Trump tweeted. “I supply all of this far better than any Democrat (for decades, actually). That’s why they will be voting for me!”