KING OF PRUSSIA, Penn. (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign sought to energise women voters in the battleground state of Pennsylvania on Tuesday, betting a message of economic prosperity will boost support from suburban women uneasy with the direction of the Republican Party.
Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law, urged the several hundred women gathered at a casino convention centre outside Philadelphia to ask their neighbours whether they have more money in their pockets and are paying less taxes since Trump became president.
“The reality is that for a vast majority of Americans the answer is yes,” she told supporters - mostly white women - at the event in the King of Prussia suburb.
Suburban women in congressional districts like the one the Trump campaign visited on Tuesday played a key role in ushering in a Democratic wave of victories in U.S. House of Representatives races in the 2018 congressional elections, robbing Republicans of their majority and delivering a rebuke of Trump.
In Pennsylvania, Democrats won nine congressional seats, the same amount as Republicans, who held a 13-5 advantage before the elections.
According to the Reuters/Ipsos 2018 Election Day poll, 56% of suburban women voters in Pennsylvania disapproved of Trump’s handling of the country, with 40% saying they approved.
“Trump is going to have to figure out a way to cut down on the margins Democrats have in the suburbs if he wants a chance to go back to the White House,” said G. Terry Madonna, a political science professor at Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania.
Speakers at the Trump event - including Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale - reminded attendees to ignore the polls and the media, saying they underestimate the level of women support for Trump.
Women accounted for roughly half of the campaign’s fundraising this year, up significantly from the previous election cycle, the campaign said on Tuesday. Also, woman account for roughly 50% of the campaign staff.
The unemployment rate among women recently reached its lowest point since 1953, and 57% of the 5.6 million jobs added since Trump has become president have gone to women, the speakers on Tuesday said.
Annmarie Scunnapieco, a 55-year-old emergency room nurse who lives in the Philadelphia suburbs, says she supports Trump because he has done what he said he would do: lower taxes, get tough on immigration, support police and move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
“Promises made, promises kept,” Scunnapieco said.
She is aware of his history of derogatory comments towards women but says focussing on those events ignores all the good he has done.
“Does it go over the line sometimes? Yes, but you really need to take a broad approach and he’s done great,” Scunnapieco said.
In the 2016 presidential election, women favoured Democrat Hillary Clinton, the first woman nominated for president by a major party, by roughly a 12-point margin over Trump. But white women as a group came out for Trump by nearly the same margin, exit polls showed.
Six women are among the more than 20 Democrats vying for the party’s nomination to compete against Trump in 2020.
The latest polls show men tend to have a more favourable view of the Trump presidency, although not overwhelmingly so.
In a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted earlier this month, 26% of women said the country was on the right track, compared with 33% of men.
In the same poll, 36% of woman said they either somewhat or strongly approved of Trump’s handling of the presidency, compared with 43% of men.
Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Peter Cooney and Susan Thomas