An expert on women voters is contradicting claims by anti-Trump Republicans that Donald Trump would fare the worst among GOP presidential contenders with female voters in a general election and therefore lose the White House.
Mr. Trump’s alleged “woman problem” has been a chief argument from Republican Party leaders who are trying to block the front-runner from clinching the nomination.
Jennifer L. Lawless, director of the Women & Politics Institute at American University’s School of Public Affairs, said she didn’t expect Mr. Trump to do worse with female voters than rival Sen. Ted Cruz, who has become the establishments’ favorite alternative to Mr. Trump.
“My guess is that the gender gap will look pretty much the same regardless of whether the Republican nominee is Trump or Cruz,” Ms. Lawless said. “They are both going to lose female voters by a sizable margin. We can make guesses about who is going to do worse, but I think there is going to be a pretty substantial gender gap regardless of whether Trump or Cruz is the nominee.”
She noted that the gender gap has been a problem for Republican presidential candidates dating back to the 1980 election, with a majority of women reliably breaking in favor of Democratic candidates.
Still, Ms. Lawless said that Mr. Trump’s sexist and derogatory remarks about women have not helped his cause, such as calling comedian Rosie O’Donnell a “fat pig” and criticizing the face of former GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina.
“Trump is bringing this upon himself,” Ms. Lawless said. “You go out there and you say things that are overtly sexist, what do you expect? There is going to be backlash and there is going to be all this attention regarding whether he actually respects women and whether he will have a problem with that.”