- The Washington Times - Monday, August 31, 2020

Increasing crime and violent protests in cities spanning the country have given President Trump a chance to make headway among women voters, who for years have cast a skeptical eye on the blustery billionaire.

Political pros say Mr. Trump’s law-and-order message could particularly reach the ranks of White suburban women, who largely rejected the president during the 2016 campaign and, until now, have not been swayed by his time in office.

Mr. Trump has taken to labeling the uptick in violent protests over the last three months “Biden’s America,” suggesting that the unrest in some city centers right now could spill into suburbia should Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden win in November.

“When I talk to women — ‘security moms’ are what I am beginning to call them — because safety, security, law and order is becoming a number one issue in this election cycle,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee Republican, said in an interview with Fox News’s Shannon Bream.

Kenneth Warren, a political science professor at St. Louis University, said Mr. Trump is using “a fear tactic” to try to repair breaches with female voters, which were apparent not just in 2016 but also in the 2018 midterm congressional elections.

The suburbs — and suburban women in particular — were considered a key part of the coalition that boosted Democrats back into power in the House, flipping more than 40 seats from Republican control.

But they’re also primed for Mr. Trump’s security message, according to polling.

A Washington Post/ABC News survey in August found 42% of White suburban voters believe Mr. Biden would make them less safe. Just 22% said he would leave them safer.

Democrats have been trying to figure out how to approach the security message.

Most of the violence at demonstrations over the past three months has come at the hands of anti-police demonstrators marching as part of larger Black Lives Matter protests. Democrats are eager to support and harness the energy of the BLM movement and have been struggling to do that while also condemning the violent fringes.

“The Democrats — in many cases — are going to do a turn on that because they are fearful of losing votes,” said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College.

Polling suggests Mr. Trump got a bounce out of last week’s nominating convention, which was dominated by his law-and-order message.

Democrats have taken notice, with Mr. Biden now forcefully condemning “needless violence” — though he blames it on Mr. Trump, saying the president had a chance to lower the temperature in the county but instead has inflamed it.

Mr. Trump won 41% of the female vote in 2016 against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Polling suggests he’s at about that same level now. An Economist/YouGov survey last week showed 38% backing Mr. Trump, against 53% supporting Mr. Biden.

Black women are firmly in the Biden camp, but White women are more divided depending on education level. Working-class women tend to be most supportive of Mr. Trump.

In addition to the protests against racial injustice and security, pollsters say women — and particularly mothers — are closely watching the coronavirus pandemic.

In Pennsylvania, COVID-19 was the top issue for women in a poll Mr. Madonna released last week.

Mr. Warren said the pandemic could hurt Mr. Trump among women, given the grim views most Americans have of his handling of it.

“It is difficult to see how it could help him unless he comes up with a reliable vaccine before the election, although early voting will probably hurt him since many people will have voted before the vaccine is out and found to be effective,” Mr. Warren said. “I doubt very much whether an effective vaccine will come out before the election.”

But Robert Cahaly, chief pollster at the Trafalgar Group, has been surveying several swing states and found mothers — and generally all voters — are tiring of COVID-19 restrictions.

He said more than 65% of voters he has surveyed say they believe it is safe to send children back to school. Republicans have been pushing to reopen schools, while Democratic leaders have largely been saying it’s not yet safe to do so.

He also said his polling shows voters in key states such as Wisconsin are tired of unrest.

“It just started to move, and it is continuing to move,” he said. “[Trump] is only going to do better in Wisconsin.”

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