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Trump's Target Audience For Migrant Caravan Scare Tactics: Women
Nov 04, 2018

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President Trump thinks he knows what motivates women casting ballots for next week’s midterm elections.

As he campaigned in Florida, Missouri, West Virginia and Indiana this week, the president made clear that the reason he had seized upon a caravan of Central American asylum seekers as a campaign issue, portraying them as potential terrorists, dangerous, disease-riddled criminals: He sees such scare tactics as resonating with women voters.

“Women all across the nation are going to show up and vote Republican on Tuesday. They want security. They want safety,” Trump said at a Friday rally in West Virginia. “They don’t want to have these people coming in. They don’t want to have … some of these people are just horrible people. You have to see the crimes they’ve committed.”

With the Republican majority in the House of Representatives looking endangered, Trump has increasingly sought to frame midterms as “about security,” perhaps believing that doing so will help close a gender gap that threatens to bring his administration to halt.

“Because women want safe neighborhoods for their families, right? They want great schools, health care for their children,” Trump said Friday afternoon in West Virginia. “They want to keep drug dealers and predators and traffickers, how about the traffickers, these are human traffickers, these are the worst scum in the world. They want them out of our country and we do that. The Democrats don’t do that. They want the open borders? Fly right in, folks.”

It’s hardly a mystery why Trump is looking for a way to motivate women to vote for his party next Tuesday. According to NPR, a Rutgers University study showed that women have had a higher turnout than men in midterm elections for the last few cycles. That’s worrisome for Republicans, given that a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released in September found that women favored Democrats to take control of Congress by a margin of 58 percent to 33 percent. 

Perhaps that’s why the president has taken to praising the female gender at his rallies. “Women women women. I love women,” Trump said Friday night as he campaigned in Indiana. “They’re the greatest. I like ’em much more than I like the men.”

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After Trump successfully renegotiated NAFTA with the Mexican government in August, replacing it with the United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement, he softened his tone on the United States’ southern neighbor. The migrant caravan from Central American nations like Honduras, then, came at the perfect time. It gave Trump what former President Barack Obama called a “boogeyman” with which to try to scare female voters.

“Did you see how tough these young men, mostly young men, strong, tough, what they did to the police, the Mexican police breaking through the border? What they did to the Mexican military in breaking through the border? These are tough people. These are not angels. These are not little angels,” Trump said while campaigning Thursday in Missouri. “These are tough people, and we’re not letting them into our country. They’re not coming in illegally.”

While politicians often disguise their true motives for weaving different themes into a campaign, Trump has been remarkably transparent about why he has spent much of his stump speech talking about the approaching caravan.

Trump’s election in 2016 was itself a test to see whether the country would respond to a campaign that painted issues in such stark relief. With the migrant caravan now at the center of his midterm strategy, the president is betting that it will be as successful in motivating turnout as was his yet-to-be-built wall on the border with Mexico.

“If you don’t want America to be overrun by masses of illegal aliens and giant caravans, you’d better vote Republican.” Trump said Thursday in Missouri. “If you want to keep drugs, gangs, crimes, if you want to keep human traffickers, think of that? In the history of our country, human traffickers. They steal, they kidnap women, many, many, many women,”  Trump continued, adding, “If you want to keep these people out of our country, vote Republican.”

In his appeals to women voters this week, Trump repeatedly tipped his hand, making his use of the migrant caravan plain for all to see and running the risk of being seen as guilty of projection.

“Border security is also a woman’s issue. You know how they keep talking about women, Trump with women? Remember the last election, ‘Well, Donald Trump won’t do very well with women’? I did great with the women. Look at the signs,” Trump said in West Virginia, gesturing to pink signs handed out at his that read “Women for Trump.”

While the president’s support among Republicans remains high, he lost the 2016 popular vote with women by a margin of 54 percent to 41 percent. Numbers like that are enough to frighten a politician.

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