Trump’s ‘woman card’ remark a preview of fall campaign?

Margaret Talev

Donald Trump went there.

Signaling he’s not afraid of the gender gap if he faces Hillary Clinton in November, the billionaire reality-TV star capped off his sweep of five states Tuesday by turning his focus to the likely Democratic nominee and declaring that if she were a man, she wouldn’t get 5 percent of the vote.

In nationally televised comments, Trump repeated an earlier assertion he has made, that the only angle Clinton has to play is the “woman’s card,” and said, “The beautiful thing is women don't like her.” He also said that “I'll do far more for women than Hillary Clinton will ever do.”

His remarks may actually have been partially targeted at Republican primary voters in Indiana, where he’s looking to put away rival Ted Cruz in next week’s primary after winning Tuesday's contests in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. At the same time, heoffered a preview of the nasty and politically incorrect general-election fight that may unfold, and providednew fodder for pro-Clinton groups collecting video to run in anti-Trump ads in the fall.

“Donald Trump is truly oblivious,” said Marcy Stech, a spokeswoman for Emily's List, a group supporting Democratic, female candidates who back abortion rights. “It's decades of offensive comments that have brought him to unprecedented lows among women. As with all of these outrageous comments, Trump's words speak for themselves. And given that he turns more women away every day, Trump is doing a lot of our work for us.”

If Clinton secures the nomination, she would be the first female presidential nominee from either major U.S. party. Democrats are building a strategy around the premise that Clinton’s gender and some of Trump’s past disparaging statements about women would be a built-in advantage for Clinton in terms of the women’s vote. In attacking her squarely on the gender issue, Trump signaled that he doesn’t buy those assumptions or that he believes he still has plenty of time before November to change how women perceive him.

Clinton, who on Tuesday defeated her own primary rival, Bernie Sanders, in four of the five states, has been preparing for Trump's line of attack. Addressing her supporters before Trump spoke, she noted that earlier Trump had “accused me of playing the, quote, woman card.” Clinton said that “if fighting for women's health care and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the woman card, then deal me in.”

Trump already appears to face an uphill fight to win women voters. He angered many women last August when he said Fox News debate moderator Megyn Kelly had “blood coming out of her wherever” after she asked him about derogatory comments he'd made about women. Gallup’s daily tracking poll for March showed that Trump is viewed unfavorably by 70 percent of U.S. women and 58 percent of men, and that his unfavorability rating with women has been climbing since last summer.

Meanwhile, Clinton has looked to women and minority voters to build her lead in the primary contests as she and Trump increasingly turn their attacks toward the general election and each other. She enjoyed a majority of support from women in the exit polls conducted Tuesday in Maryland, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania, according to CNN.

For his part, Trump continued to strike that note in televised interviews Wednesday morning when he was asked about Clinton's comments. “I haven't quite recovered -- it's early in the morning -- from her shouting that message,” he said. “I guess I'll have to get used to a lot of that over the next four or five months.”