Trump’s shadow darkens Conn. GOP prospects

With each utterance, President Donald Trump continues to enlarge his gender gap. During his first year in office, Gallup found Trump had an average approval rating among men of 45 percent, but among women only 33 percent — the largest gender gap in Gallup polling history.

This is bad news for Connecticut’s Republican candidates.

The latest example of Trump’s ability to alienate women voters was the handling of the exit of top White House aide Rob Porter after allegations surfaced that he had physically abused his two former wives. Despite consistent stories from the two women, Trump’s initial reaction was to praise Porter. Then — in a single tweet — he managed to cast aspersions on women coming forward in the #MeToo movement and the accounts of Porter’s former wives.

“Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by mere allegations,” Trump stated.

Absent has been any sympathy from Trump for victims of sexual harassment. The #MeToo movement found no place in Trump’s State of the Union address. None of this is surprising, perhaps, for a man who has bragged of molesting women with impunity because of his status.

On Wednesday, the president did make it a point to tell reporters, “I am totally opposed to domestic violence.”

Glad he cleared that up.

On many policies, Trump and his Republican Party, at least nationally, hold positions in opposition to views held by the majority of women, and most certainly women voters in Connecticut.

Trump’s border wall and restrictive immigration and refugee policies do not play well with many women. Nor does the refusal of Trump and the Republican Congress to entertain restrictions on gun ownership or require universal background checks, despite repeated mass shootings.

Trump and Republican efforts to strip Planned Parenthood of funding, while filling federal courts and the Supreme Court with jurists willing to approve as constitutional laws restricting access to abortion, adds to the gender gap. Their attempts to undermine the Affordable Care Act also are unpopular with many women.

There are places where these positions do not hurt Trump and the GOP: states with large percentages of white women without college degrees. These women were central to Trump’s victory. He won a majority of their votes in the pivotal states of Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

But Connecticut has a 20 percent minority population and about 37 percent of women have a bachelor’s degree or higher, just slightly trailing men. The Gallup poll found an overall approval rating for Trump of 31 percent in Connecticut. And while I could not find a gender breakdown, it is certainly lower than that among women.

Which has to have Connecticut Republicans worried. No doubt the anti-Trump vote will be a factor in November. Women in particular appear fired up to send a message at the ballot box. Incumbent Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy easily will win re-election, as will the Democrats serving the state’s five congressional districts.

The question is how far down the ballot will the anti-Trump, anti-Republican fervor go? Will it endanger Republican chances to gain control of the Connecticut House and/or Senate and win the governorship, all of which, pre-Trump, appeared strong possibilities given the state’s continuing fiscal problems?

My thinking is that the anti-Trump tidal wave, led by that gender gap, will damage Republican chances up and down the ballot.

And state Democrats sense it, proposing initiatives they expect to play well with women voters — including proposals to protect access to health care and birth control threatened by national Republican policies, toughening laws to protect against sexual harassment in the workplace, expanding sick leave benefits and passing equal pay protections.

Trump’s baleful shadow looms over Connecticut’s Republicans and it keeps growing darker.

Paul Choiniere is the editorial page editor.

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