May 10, 2016
What Woman Would Run With Trump?
Reality-television star Donald Trump is now the presumptive winner of the GOP presidential nomination, and women couldn’t be less enthused. According to Gallup, 70 percent of women—and 46 percent of Republican women—have an unfavorable view of the newly minted Republican presidential nominee, and his insistence on criticizing women’s appearances, alluding they may be menstruating when they question him too aggressively, suggesting they could go to jail for obtaining abortions and defending his own staff when there are questions of them being violent or sexist towards female reporters isn’t likely to drive those numbers down.
At this point, Trump ranks somewhere below cockroaches and hemorrhoids with women voters, which should lead the campaign to conclude that he has a definite woman problem he will have to address. And what better way to do that than to add a woman to the ticket. The only problem? Who would ever be willing to run with Trump?
Being a vice-presidential nominee is fraught with heavy responsibilities, like being able to name a newspaper or any Supreme Court decision other than Roe v. Wade. But it also has one really big requirement: go hard against the other party’s nominee. While the presidential candidates need to look as likeable as possible, which usually involves some attempt to take the high road in a head-to-head battle, the vice-presidential candidates are the attack dogs, heading straight into the gutter and dragging the other party’s top of the ticket down with them.
For Trump, adding a woman to his ticket addresses two of his biggest issues heading into the general election. First, it helps him try to make inroads with women, potentially closing a little of that massive advantage that former Secretary of State and likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has with female voters. Second, it allows a woman to launch verbal attacks on Clinton, making for much better optics overall than if a male Republican dug in as part of what has already been a primary campaign rampant with misogyny.
The question is, though: Who would even want to be on a ticket with Donald Trump, the man who has alienated at least half the GOP and nearly all of the women in the country? Those who could provide some much needed gravitas to a Trump circus are justifiably disinterested in joining up, and with ample reason. The Trump campaign may be cruising toward the most embarrassing presidential loss since Ronald Reagan beat Walter Mondale, in 1984, and it’s hard to imagine a Republican with hopes for a future in politics wanting to be in the passenger seat for that ride.
While an “establishment” candidate might start to heal the rift caused by a raucous and nasty primary, the cream of the crop for GOP women have all previously pledged themselves to Trump’s primary opponents. Even with Trump mostly securing the Republican nomination, it seems unlikely that they will backtrack enough to accept a V.P. nod. Establishment women politicians like South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley or New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte have both been entirely tepid in their enthusiasm for the newly crowned party figure, offering only to support him because he is the GOP nominee, but shying away from anything resembling an endorsement—and in Haley’s case already saying no thanks to any Veep talk. For Ayotte, who is stuck in a very tight race to keep her senate seat out of the hands of Democratic challenger and New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan, her hands are already full trying to balance Trump’s popularity with New Hampshire’s anti-establishment Republicans with his dismal numbers among the state’s other voting populations. New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez could bridge the gender gap, help Trump with his even bigger gap with Hispanics, and even just maybe put the state of New Mexico in play. But Martinez, too, gave a firm nuh-uh to any talk of joining Trump’s ticket.
Sure, there are women who would be willing to jump on the Good Ship Donald, but whether they would buoy him or sink him is anyone’s guess. One name that is frequently mentioned is Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, a vocal Trump supporter. “I have not had any direct contact with Mr. Trump, but I would be very honored if I were to receive a call saying I need you to help make America great again,” Fallin said in a statement regarding her hopes, according to CNN. Fallin doesn’t bring much diversity to the ticket, being another anti-establishment ultra-conservative, and with Oklahoma being a sure win for Republicans she doesn’t even affect the map in that way.
Former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer represents the same problem. Although Brewer, too, said she’d be “willing to serve in any capacity that I could be of help with Donald on,” she then added that “this woman thing has gotten way out of control,” leaving little hope she can gain ground with female voters that Trump has lost. As for helping with the Hispanic vote, Trump would likely be as effective recruiting Sheriff Joe Arpaio himself.
Then there is Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who some pundits consider a dark horse V.P. candidate. “He has to win Florida to have a prayer of winning the election, and he has to do something about his abysmal ratings with women, or he’s toast,” predicts a blogger at Balloon Juice. “Bondi is a woman, and Trump is sexist knob enough to believe one vagina cancels out another, just as McCain thought La Palin would lure Hillary supporters. The writer adds that Bondi “straddles” the line between wingnut and fiscal conservative, and could possibly put the state of Florida in play—a necessity for Trump, who is currently neck and neck with Clinton in Florida.
Then again, Bondi comes with her own set of political liabilities. Locally, many are questioning Bondi’s acceptance of a $25,000 donation from Trump’s charitable foundation to her re-election campaign—a donation that came just a few days after a newspaper announced Bondi’s office was looking into accusations that Trump Institute had scammed some Floridians out of thousands. Taking a spot on Trump’s ticket could change a statewide scandal into a national affair.
In reality, there simply isn’t a good female candidate willing and able to join Trump as a running mate. But maybe that’s just fine. After all, this is a man whose own team calls him “more pro-woman than Clinton,” and who believes men are “petrified to speak to women anymore.” Surely he’ll have no issues closing that gender gap just fine all on his own.