WEST PALM BEACH — As Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump fights to rebound from a series of reports questioning his treatment of women, his female supporters at recent campaign rallies have remained steadfast in their support of the real estate mogul — holding handmade signs with his lewd remarks from a 2005 video and fiercely defending his alleged actions.
However, recent polls indicate he is losing ground overall among female voters — a critical voting bloc that has historically outnumbered men at the polls and could sway the outcome of the race, according to political analysts.
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released days after a video surfaced last week of Trump boasting about kissing and groping women without their consent showed the GOP nominee trailing Democrat Hillary Clinton by 25 points among women voters.
In the battleground state of Pennsylvania, which Trump has vowed to win, a Bloomberg/Selzer poll found 60 percent of voters were “bothered a lot” by the recording; 69 percent of women said they were bothered a lot compared with 51 percent of men.
“His path to victory has to include making some inroads among women voters, especially white college-educated voters, a group that has tended to support Republicans in growing numbers,” said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. “So far he’s been unable to do that. He continues shoring his base, those folks that are already supporting him, but everything he has done recently is not broadening his base.”
Trump posted a video apology on his Facebook page hours after the video emerged last Friday and defended his remarks days later at the second presidential debate as harmless “locker room” talk. But after denying at the debate that he ever treated women in the sexually aggressive terms he spoke about in the video, a number of women came forward on Wednesday accusing him of lying.
In accounts published in The New York Times, People Magazine and The Palm Beach Post four women alleged that Trump groped them, or kissed them without their consent in separate incidents.
Trump denied the allegations at a campaign rally on Thursday in West Palm Beach, where he framed the accusations as “outright lies” that were part of a smear campaign “orchestrated” by the campaign of Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Following the video’s disclosure, Trump has intensified his line of attack that Clinton is not an ally of aggrieved women — accusing her of condoning the past indiscretions of her husband, former president Bill Clinton, who faced multiple accusations of sexual harassment and indecent behavior while serving in public office.
Moments before Sunday’s debate, Trump invited three of Bill Clinton’s accusers to speak out, all accusing the former first lady of attacking them when they came forward with their allegations.
Walsh said the last time sexual harassment was a prominent campaign issue was in 1992 after the Supreme Court confirmation hearings where Anita Hill accused then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexually harassing her at work.
“That really brought the issue to the forefront in a way that it had never been before,” Walsh said. “It was a year we saw the number of women elected to the U.S. House double, and brought in new women to the United States Senate.”