Trump's woman problem may cost the GOP the House

Trump's woman problem may cost the GOP the House
© Getty

President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Groups plan mass walkout in support of Kavanaugh accuser MORE has a woman problem — and it has nothing to do with Stormy Daniels or Omarosa. 

Female opposition to Trump — especially in swing suburban districts — could cost Republicans control of the House of Representatives on Election Day this November. 

ADVERTISEMENT

According to a recent NPR/PBS/Marist poll, nearly six in 10 suburban women strongly disapprove of the president's job performance. More than two-thirds somewhat or strongly disapprove compared to just one-quarter who approve. In contrast, roughly 50 percent of suburban men — twice as many — approve of President Trump.  

By a two-to-one margin, suburban women are more likely to vote for the Democratic candidate this fall. And women tend to outvote men. 

There are roughly two-dozen suburban House seats currently held by Republicans that could flip to Democrat control. Democrats must flip at least 23 Republican-held seats to retake the House and return the Speaker's gavel to Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDems see Kavanaugh saga as playing to their advantage Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her Sinema, Fitzpatrick call for long-term extension of Violence Against Women Act MORE

These suburban districts include perennial battlegrounds like those held by Barbara ComstockBarbara Jean ComstockDems see Kavanaugh saga as playing to their advantage Millionaires group endorses Dem House candidates opposed to GOP tax law 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 MORE, Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard CoffmanGiffords PAC features hypothetical texts during school lockdown in ad against Colorado rep Dems see Kavanaugh saga as playing to their advantage 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 MORE, and Peter Roskam Peter James RoskamMillionaires group endorses Dem House candidates opposed to GOP tax law Jordan hits campaign trail amid bid for Speaker Trump's woman problem may cost the GOP the House MORE in the Washington D.C., Denver, and Chicago suburbs, respectively. But because of Trump's alienation of suburban voters, they now include the seats held by Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdDem introduces bill to create federal cybersecurity apprenticeship program Koch group launches digital ads in tight Texas House race Gingrich: Bushes view themselves as closer to Obamas, Clintons than to Trump MORE, John CulbersonJohn Abney CulbersonFive biggest surprises in midterm fight Trump's woman problem may cost the GOP the House The Hill's Morning Report — Battle lines drawn as Trump and Cohen dig in MORE, and Dave Brat in the San Antonio, Houston, and Richmond suburbs as well.  

There are also five seats in the Los Angeles suburbs currently held by Republicans that could flip to Democrat control. There are four in suburban Philadelphia, and two in suburban Miami. These districts have traditionally supported Republican economic priorities like tax cuts but have opposed the president's divisive social agenda. 

Rather than recognize that the path to House control runs through the suburbs, Trump is waging a culture war campaign featuring anti-immigrant, anti-trade, and anti-elite sentiment as if they were trying to drive up the Republican vote in rural Arkansas. 

Rather than focusing on tax cuts and the amelioration of the regulatory state, Republican groups are blanketing the airwaves with anti-immigrant campaign ads. For suburban women, who are more likely to have friends, neighbors, and colleagues who are immigrants, these attacks have personal consequences. Even Republican pollster Frank Luntz has warned that Republicans are making a mistake by leaning so hard on this issue.

Suburban women are also more likely to be college educated, another demographic that Trump scores particularly poorly with. They are less likely to be receptive to Trump's pro-tariff talking points that are debunked on the first day of Econ 101. As the nation's biggest consumers, suburban women are also among the hardest hit by the inflation caused by tariffs. 

Perhaps the president's biggest turnoff among suburban women is his anti-woman rhetoric and policies. Referring to former aide Omarosa as a "dog" this month was only the most recent example in a long list of sexist and dehumanizing comments. Some of his policies, like forcibly separating mothers from their children at the border, are also opposed much more strongly by women.  

The president's supporters may counter that Trump's culture war and misogynistic bonafides were well established prior to his election victory in 2016. Yet, this argument overlooks the fact that despite his victory, Trump lost many suburban districts that had been Republican strongholds for decades. These included Salt Lake County outside of Salt Lake City, Gwinnett County outside of Atlanta, Fort Bend County outside Houston, and Orange County, south of Los Angeles, which voted Democrat for the first time since FDR. Trump underperformed Romney in the majority of suburbs.  

The story of Trump's suburban shortfall was overshadowed by his success in flipping blue-collar districts that had twice pulled the lever for President Obama. But this story will likely get the full attention it deserves from Republicans in the aftermath of this election. 

Suburban women generally want economic opportunity, personal freedom, and sound governance. In other words, they're receptive to candidates in the traditional Republican mold. Trump and his followers abdicate Republican women’s support at their peril — and not just this November. It is a choice that will likely hurt the GOP for many election cycles to come. 

Kodiak Hill-Davis is political director of Republican Women for Progress, a policy organization that encourages Republican women to engage in American politics and civic discourse.