President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign will dispatch more than a dozen female surrogates on Thursday to some of the most important 2020 battleground states in its first major push to mobilize suburban women — a critical voting bloc that revolted against Republican candidates as recently as the midterm elections last fall.
Campaign officials have billed the cross-country events as both a celebration of women’s suffrage — Sunday marks the 99th anniversary of the adoption of the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote — and a coordinated effort to train pro-Trump women to become effective volunteers in their communities. As of Tuesday, a campaign official involved with the planning said about 2,000 attendees were expected across the gatherings in 13 states.
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“From coast-to-coast we will mobilize and organize to reelect President Trump and give him another four years in the White House,” Katrina Pierson, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, said in a statement.
It’s the first test for the Trump campaign’s women’s coalition — a mash-up of the president’s most loyal female supporters, ranging in background from pageant queens and YouTube personalities to Christian podcasters and political wives — and it comes as the Trump administration grapples with warnings of a possible recession that could make the coalition’s message of women’s economic empowerment a tougher sell next November. Trump and his allies have repeatedly pointed to the women’s unemployment rate, which has hovered between 3.5 and 4 percent since last summer, and the inclusion of a paid family leave plan in the latest White House budget as evidence that American women have benefited from his policies.
“I’m just going to be very direct with people: It’s a complete scam, a hoax, that we’re going into recession,” said Tana Goertz, an Iowa campaign staffer and former “Apprentice” contestant. Goertz will host around 50 women outside Des Moines on Thursday as part of the Trump campaign’s “Evening to Empower.”
Trump campaign spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany, who will host an event in the Atlanta suburbs, added: “The media narrative is always designed to be negative toward the president. There is simply no denying that the economic fundamentals of this economy are strong.”
In addition to Iowa and Georgia, the campaign has also planned women-focused events in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Texas, Pennsylvania, Colorado, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Minnesota and Florida. Each will feature a member of the Women for Trump advisory board, some of whom received a general outline with tips on how to engage prospective volunteers and promote the president’s agenda.
“We want to get their information, activate them, get them to become neighborhood team leaders,” Goertz said.
The list of “principals,” as one campaign aide described it, includes former Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona; Trump campaign adviser Katrina Pierson; Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) and his wife; former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle; White House counselor Kellyanne Conway; and Mary Ann Mendoza, a so-called Angel Mom whose son was killed by an undocument immigrant. Florida first lady Casey DeSantis was scheduled to attend an event in Tampa, but a spokesperson for the governor’s office said Monday that DeSantis could no longer participate because it conflicts with a scheduled execution.
Many of the states where female Trump surrogates will host events on Thursday contributed heavily to Democratic gains in the midterm elections, in part because of suburban women who flipped in their favor. Exit poll data from CNN found that women backed Democratic candidates over Republicans by a 19-point margin in 2018, the largest gap in more than three decades. In Pennsylvania, 56 percent of suburban women voters surveyed on Election Day said they disapproved of Trump’s job performance, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.
Countless other surveys have found that the president’s Twitter outbursts and racially charged attacks especially disturb women voters, and more recent polls have shown no improvement.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Monday found a 6-point gap in support for Trump versus a generic 2020 Democrat among non-college-educated white women, a demographic group he carried by 27 percentage points in 2016. With college-educated white women, the gap grows to 33 points. A separate Fox News poll released last week, however, showed Trump doing better with college-educated white women.
Campaign aides and officials involved with America First Action, the pro-Trump super PAC, have argued that negative numbers with women are the result of polling data that doesn’t account for the so-called hidden Trump voter: suburban women who favor Trump but deliberately keep their support private.
“I’m confident there are a number of female voters out there who don’t talk to pollsters and don’t register in polls but support the president,” McEnany said.
Part of the goal of Thursday, according to Goertz, is to encourage women who are reluctant to publicly declare themselves Trump supporters to feel as though they can.
“We just kind of want to empower them to express their passion and approval of our president and not be afraid,” Goertz said.