GEN­DER WARS

Midterms more heated af­ter Ka­vanaugh con­fir­ma­tion widens di­vide in elec­torate

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - FRONT PAGE - Su­san Page USA TO­DAY

WASH­ING­TON – Women who have been driv­ing the midterm elec­tions as en­er­gized vot­ers and first-time can­di­dates al­ready had fu­eled a record­break­ing gen­der gap that was boost­ing Democrats.

Now the bat­tle over Brett Ka­vanaugh’s con­fir­ma­tion to the Supreme Court has pro­voked a back­lash among those who ar­gue the #MeToo move­ment has gone too far, a re­ac­tion that is in­creas­ing the odds Repub­li­cans can hold con­trol of the Sen­ate. Call it the gen­der wars, a midterm bat­tle that could be a dry run for the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in 2020 and fun­da­men­tally re­shape the na­tion’s po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

The irony is this: It was the de­feat of the first woman nom­i­nated for the pres­i­dency by a ma­jor party that helped spur a new era of po­lit­i­cal en­gage­ment

by mil­lions of women. Since Hil­lary Clin­ton’s loss in 2016 to Don­ald Trump, his dis­rup­tive lead­er­ship and hard-line poli­cies on im­mi­gra­tion and other is­sues have forged bonds with core sup­port­ers but also opened a breach with many women, in­clud­ing some GOPlean­ing and in­de­pen­dent women who in the past have voted for Repub­li­cans.

The re­sult has been a midterm elec­tion de­fined by women. A dis­par­ity be­tween the way women and men view is­sues and how they vote isn’t new, but the di­vide has never been so yawn­ing. Like so many things in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics these days, it’s be­ing pro­pelled in large part by Trump.

The af­ter­math of Ka­vanaugh’s dra­matic nom­i­na­tion hear­ings and nar­row con­fir­ma­tion has spot­lighted the gen­der di­vide that has in­flamed some vot­ers since Trump claimed the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion two years ago. One side saw a cred­i­ble woman whose ac­count of sex­ual as­sault against a pow­er­ful man was not be­lieved and not taken se­ri­ously. The other side saw an ac­com­plished man whose rep­u­ta­tion was be­ing smeared by an ac­cuser who couldn’t pro­vide proof of her al­le­ga­tions or re­mem­ber some de­tails of her at­tack.

“The Democrats’ shame­less cam­paign of po­lit­i­cal and per­sonal de­struc­tion,” Trump de­clared at a cam­paign rally in Topeka, Kan­sas, hours af­ter Ka­vanaugh had been con­firmed. He has mocked Chris­tine Blasey Ford’s ac­count of an at­tempted rape and com­plained that he him­self had been the vic­tim of un­fair ac­cu­sa­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct. “This is a very scary time for young men in Amer­ica,” he told re­porters. At a rally in Penn­syl­va­nia on Wed­nes­day, Trump ridiculed the #MeToo move­ment, say­ing that “un­der the rules of MeToo, I’m not al­lowed” to use a cer­tain ex­pres­sion. “See, in the old days, it was a lit­tle dif­fer­ent,” he said to laugh­ter.

That mes­sage seems to be res­onat­ing, en­er­giz­ing Repub­li­can vot­ers who had been less en­thused about the midterms than Democrats. GOP can­di­dates in sev­eral too-close-to-call Sen­ate races have seen their stand­ing rise over the past week or so. As Elec­tion Day ap­proaches:

❚ In a CNN poll re­leased Tues­day, women by 30 per­cent­age points, 63 to 33 per­cent, said they are more likely to vote for the Demo­cratic con­gres­sional can­di­date in their dis­trict. Men by 5 points, 50 to 45 per­cent, said they were likely to vote for the Repub­li­can.

❚ An un­prece­dented num­ber of women are run­ning for of­fice, mostly as Democrats. Rut­gers’ Cen­ter for Amer­i­can Women and Pol­i­tics cal­cu­lates that 235 women have been nom­i­nated for the House; the pre­vi­ous record was 167. Twenty-two to date for the Sen­ate; the record was 18. Six­teen for gover­nor; the record was 10.

❚ In the lat­est Wall Street Jour­nal/ NBC Poll, taken be­fore Ka­vanaugh’s con­fir­ma­tion, white col­lege-ed­u­cated women said they planned to vote for the Demo­cratic con­gres­sional can­di­date by 23 points. White work­ing­class men said they planned to vote for the Repub­li­can by 29 points.

AL­BERT CE­SARE/USA TO­DAY NET­WORK

Mary Schart­man chants dur­ing a protest in Cincin­nati against then-Supreme Court nom­i­nee Brett Ka­vanaugh this month.

J. SCOTT AP­PLE­WHITE/AP

Women sup­port­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ac­tions and his lat­est Supreme Court pick seem to be in the mi­nor­ity.

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