The Biggest Blunder of the 2016 Campaign
Many have tried to dismiss the recently released tapes of Donald Trump discussing women in extraordinarily vile terms as simply good old boy locker room banter claiming they are immaterial and will not impact on their vote. Perhaps to his diehard supporters they will not but that is not the target audience. The target audience is the women’s vote, in particular suburban white women, who will, in the end determine the winner of the presidential election.
In 1920 American women were, for the first time, able to vote for president in all the states of the union. The female vote accounted for 30% of the total votes cast in that election. The women’s vote gradually increased but remained below the 50% threshold until the election of 1964 when nearly 51% of the voting electorate were women. The female vote has exceeded the male vote ever since.
In fact, women have been the determining factor in five of the last six presidential elections. A phenomenon often referred to as the “Gender Gap” reflects the fact that women over the past 24 years tend to prefer the Democratic nominee and have created a voting gap from three to thirteen percentage points in favor of any Democratic Party nominee. In 2008 McCain won just 43% of the women’s vote compared to 56% for Barack Obama, the worst result for a Republican to date. This long-term trend, in combination with a much higher turnout among female voters adds a significant layer of difficulty for any Republican not named Ronald Reagan (who won 58% of the women’s vote in the 1984 landslide to win the presidency).
The female vs male turnout as a percent of the overall votes cast during the past five presidential elections are as follows:
The percentage of the women’s vote won by the respective Democratic and Republican candidates are as follows:
*Reflects the impact of Ross Perot who received 8% of female vote
This brings us to the 2016 election which for the first time in history has a woman nominated for president. Therefore, many of the estimates for the percentage of women voting in 2016 exceed what has been experienced in recent years. Perhaps up to 56% of the overall vote will be female due in great part to the potential historic nature of this election cycle.
If that is the case, based on the winning campaign of George Bush in 2004, any Republican nominee will have to win at least 49% of the women’s vote as well as 57% of the men’s vote.
The polling averages since last May show that Donald Trump is viewed favorably or somewhat favorably by only 33% of women (by comparison George Bush had a 49% favorable rating in September of 2004.) Therefore, Trump’s task has always been to somehow convince 45% of those women who have expressed a deep seated dislike to change their minds and vote for him plus make certain at least 60% of all who have expressed any favorability do in fact vote for him. If not, Trump will lose the election in a landslide as it is estimated that over 14 million more women will vote than will men.
This is the primary reason the strategy the Democrats have utilized this fall has been to emphasize Trump’s checkered past with women including innumerable audio and video clips of his many inane and oftentimes loathsome comments relative to women over the past 40 years. They also have other tapes they could use to portray him as an avaricious, reprehensible and unethical capitalist, but the emphasis has been and will continue to be his treatment of women over the years.
There is no doubt Hillary Clinton is an extraordinarily flawed candidate and under normal circumstances should be beatable even with all the built-in advantages the Democratic Party now enjoys in any presidential election. Against virtually any other potential Republican candidate this overwhelming gender gap would have been virtually eliminated as a majority of women do not trust or like Hillary Clinton but their attitude toward Trump approaches loathing.
Trump cannot hope to offset his nearly insolvable problems with women by threatening to send Hillary to jail or attacking her for her treatment of women that were abused by Bill Clinton or endlessly repeating his usual non-sequiturs e.g. “Women love me” or “I have great respect for women”. This issue should have been attacked head-on last spring during the primary season instead of being ignored. At this late date there is probably nothing short of a global financial meltdown or a 9/11-scale terrorist attack that could improve his standing with women as more tapes and videos will surely surface.
He, his advisors, the members of the Republican National Committee had to know that the primary aspect of the Democrat’ game plan was to crucify Trump with women. Certainly Trump had to know, as a forty-year tabloid headliner, a 15-year reality TV star, books and interviews in which he boasted about his female conquests, and his own upbringing in a world of male chauvinism that hours of tapes and videos existed that would be used against him. When the books are written on this sorry campaign season this failure will go down in history as the biggest blunder of all.