NEW YORK (AFP) — “Bimbo,” “dog,” “fat pig” — Donald Trump has never minced his words about women he doesn’t like, but prolific insults and personal attacks on prominent females may cost him the election.
This week America’s extraordinary presidential campaign descended to new lows when the billionaire and his main challenger for the Republican nomination, Ted Cruz, escalated their bitter feud, taking to social media to clash over two unlikely figures: their wives.
Before the episode was over, Trump had tweeted a picture of his third wife, Melania, a former model, next to an unflattering photograph of Cruz’s wife, Heidi.
“The images are worth a thousand words,” read the caption. Cruz, an arch-conservative and evangelical Christian, reacted with fury.
“Leave Heidi the hell alone,” he hit back. “It is not acceptable for a big loud New York bully to attack my wife.”
The real estate mogul posted the tweet after an anti-Trump coalition unveiled a controversial campaign ad using a magazine photo of Melania posing nude in his private jet 15 years ago.
The incident likely did little to boost Trump’s ratings among women in a week when opinion polls revealed the very depth of the problem he faces with females.
Thirty-nine percent of Republican women have an unfavorable opinion of Trump, according to a CNN/ORC poll.
Meanwhile a survey from Quinnipiac University found that 60 percent of women would “definitely not” vote for Trump in the November presidential election.
These are damning finds, especially when women outnumber men at the ballot box. In the 2012 presidential election, women accounted for 53 percent of turnout.
It doesn’t help that most days — on Twitter or in speeches — Trump hounds America’s most watched female TV news anchor, Megyn Kelly, as “crazy.”
Trump and the Fox News host clashed at the first Republican debate in August when she questioned him about derogatory remarks he made in the past about women, such as calling them “fat pigs,” “slobs” and “disgusting animals.”
An irritated Trump snapped that he did not have time for political correctness and later insinuated Kelly asked the question only because she was menstruating.
But it didn’t end there. Before Republican candidate Carly Fiorina dropped out of the race, Trump insulted her, saying: “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?”
Last week he released an ad ridiculing Hillary Clinton — replaying footage of her barking like a dog that then cut away to a giggling Russian President Vladimir Putin, with the comment “We don’t need to be a punchline.”
Nothing makes Katie Packer, a Republican strategist who worked for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012, angrier.
She called Trump “incredibly sexist and misogynistic” and said he would be “catastrophic” for the Republican Party.
In 2012 Romney lost the women’s vote 44 percent to Barack Obama’s 56 percent. Trump would lose it 32 to 68 percent in 2016, she predicted.
To overcome that level of unpopularity among women, Trump would need to win 85 percent of the white male vote, she said.
Packer is supporting an anti-Trump attack ad in which female actors read out some of Trump’s past insults.
“This is how Donald Trump talks about our mothers, our sisters, our daughters,” the ad says. “If you believe America deserves better, vote against Donald Trump.”
It was released in Florida and Utah before primaries there and will also air in Wisconsin, which votes on April 5.
Trump won Florida, but lost Utah. If he loses Wisconsin, he cannot get the 1,237 delegates necessary to win the Republican nomination outright, Packer said.
“We have a big plan to push hard in Wisconsin,” she told AFP.
Trump denies being sexist. He told CNN this week that some of his remarks were just “show business” and claimed he would be better for women than Clinton.
“Nobody respects women more than I do,” he said. But while he does have more success among men, Trump does not categorically do poorly with Republican women.
He won the highest percent of women’s votes in 11 of the first 15 Republican primary and caucus nominating contests, according to ABC News’ exit polls.
In Missouri and Massachusetts, he got 46 percent of women’s votes, and 45 percent of the female vote in Nevada.
Vicky Reckart, who used to run a cleaning service but is now on disability benefit, said she is voting for Trump, but has started to question why.
“I’m telling you, he has my vote right now,” she told AFP in Atlantic City, the gambling resort town in New Jersey.
“But there’s a lot of thinking about it, it’s a little scary,” she added.