Repub­li­can women cam­paign against Trump de­fec­tions

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY TOM HOW­ELL JR.

GREENS­BORO, N.C. | As the pres­i­den­tial race sank into R-rated ter­ri­tory, the wives of three sit­ting con­gress­men urged a dozen women sip­ping iced tea at Dar­ryl’s WoodFired Grill last week to rise above the fray and get out the vote — for Don­ald Trump.

Cit­ing is­sues such as bor­der se­cu­rity and the future of the Supreme Court, they said the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee’s vi­sion for the coun­try far out­weighed the tor­rent of bad press the mogul had been re­ceiv­ing for his words and pur­ported ac­tions against women.

“Place your trust in him. He de­serves it,” said Lolita Zinke, the wife of Rep. Ryan K. Zinke, a Mon­tana Repub­li­can and former Navy SEAL.

Leaked au­dio of Mr. Trump mak­ing lewd com­ments about women sent many Repub­li­cans scur­ry­ing last week, fear­ing the decade-old re­marks from an “Ac­cess Hol­ly­wood” tap­ing would dent their prospects among much-needed vot­ers in the fi­nal weeks of the cam­paign.

Yet even as the Repub­li­can Party de­scended into civil war, these con­ser­va­tive women loaded onto a char­tered bus and took off across North Carolina, a cru­cial swing state, urg­ing vot­ers to make peace with the mogul’s of­fen­sive re­marks and rally to his side. They said Hil­lary Clin­ton’s lib­eral vi­sion for Amer­ica is an un­ac­cept­able al­ter­na­tive.

For these women, the cal­cu­lus is straight­for­ward: Mr. Trump may be a cad, but Mrs. Clin­ton, the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee, has done things they ab­hor, in­clud­ing fail­ing to se­cure the U.S. diplo­matic post in Beng­hazi, Libya, and promis­ing to let more Syr­ian refugees into the U.S. amid ques­tions about the vet­ting process.

“Don­ald Trump’s char­ac­ter is not ac­tu­ally what we’re vot­ing on. We’re vot­ing on his vi­sion, his pol­icy and his con­cerns,” said Deb­bie Mead­ows, the wife of Rep. Mark Mead­ows, North Carolina Repub­li­can. “What we share are his con­cerns — for na­tional se­cu­rity, for chang­ing the di­rec­tion of this na­tion. And that hasn’t changed.”

They also re­jected the idea that Mrs. Clin­ton’s his­toric run as a fe­male candidate should make them nat­u­ral al­lies.

“It’s an in­sult to think I would vote for anyone based on the fact we share the same anatomy,” said LeeAnn John­son, the wife of Rep. Bill John­son, Ohio Repub­li­can.

The “Women for Trump” bus took off from Char­lotte on Oct. 9 and wrapped up in the same city, where it served as a back­drop for one of Mr. Trump’s ral­lies. In be­tween, it criss­crossed the state with a ro­tat­ing crop of con­gres­sional wives from across the coun­try — as some flew out, sev­eral more took their place — on a tour of fam­ily farms, restau­rants and county Repub­li­can Party of­fices.

Tour or­ga­nizer Nancy Schulze, the wife of former Rep. Dick Schulze of Penn­syl­va­nia, said no one dropped out be­cause of the con­tro­versy swirling around Mr. Trump.

“This about the future of this coun­try,” she said. “This is about what Amer­ica we will end up liv­ing in for the next 40 to 50 years.”

De­spite a few mid­dle fin­gers and “drive-by F-bombs,” the women said, the re­sponse was over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive and they are con­fi­dent they can swing North Carolina into the Repub­li­can col­umn.

Polls show Mrs. Clin­ton beat­ing Mr. Trump by dou­ble dig­its na­tion­wide among fe­male vot­ers, and North Carolina is a crit­i­cal state for both can­di­dates — mean­ing fe­male vot­ers could play an out­sized role in who takes the White House.

“There’s plenty of col­lege-ed­u­cated, sub­ur­ban Repub­li­can women in N.C. and Trump has be­come an in­creas­ingly hard sell for them,” Steven Greene, a pol­i­tics pro­fes­sor at North Carolina State Univer­sity, said in an email. “It’s hard to see how Trump holds on to N.C. with­out do­ing well among this group of vot­ers.”

At Dar­ryl’s, Mrs. Schulze told women from the Greater Greens­boro Repub­li­can Women’s Club to re­dou­ble their ef­forts in the fi­nal weeks be­fore the elec­tion, not­ing to au­di­ble gasps that Mrs. Clin­ton has far more cam­paign of­fices in the state than Mr. Trump does.

None of the con­gres­sional wives ex­cused Mr. Trump’s com­ments from 2005, in which he boasted that his star power al­lows him to do what he wants with women — in­clud­ing grab­bing their pri­vate parts.

The nom­i­nee has apol­o­gized for his re­marks, though he dis­missed their con­tent as “locker room talk” in the sec­ond pres­i­den­tial de­bate. Since then, nine women have come for­ward to ac­cuse Mr. Trump of grop­ing them or mak­ing un­to­ward sex­ual ad­vances.

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