Women voters in swing states are expressing deep disgust about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s assertion that an old tape featuring him talking about groping women amounted to “locker room talk” and not sexual assault.
But interviews with several dozen on Monday show Trump’s latest actions, including bringing women who have accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual harassment or rape to Sunday’s debate, did little to sway their opinions about the presidential contest. Many Republicans and independents said they already weren’t going to support Trump, but weren’t convinced to vote for Hillary Clinton. Some said they wouldn’t vote at all or would choose Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
“It didn’t surprise me that it came from him. It makes it even more shameful that there’s a possibility that he would represent the United States,” said Chris O’Rourke, a New Hampshire voter who doesn’t identify with a political party. But, she added, “I’m not a fan of the Clintons. … I don’t know if I’m going to vote.”
In the 2005 recording released Friday, Trump is heard saying he can grab, kiss and “do anything” with women because he is famous. On Sunday he denied that he’s ever grabbed women without their consent and again characterized the comments as “locker room talk.” Prior to the debate, he met with three women who have accused Bill Clinton of harassment or rape. The former president never faced criminal charges in relation to the allegations, and a lawsuit over an alleged rape was dismissed. He did settle a lawsuit with one of the women who claimed harassment.
Trump was already struggling with women voters, while Clinton is looking to run up her margins with them to make up for her challenges among men. Among registered voters, women were more likely than men to say they’d be afraid if Trump were elected, 60% to 52%, according to a recent Associated Press-GfK poll released before the tape of Trump came to light. They were more likely to say he’s not at all civil, 54% to 49%, or compassionate, 58% to 50%.
And 51% of women said they planned to vote for Clinton compared to 34% for Trump.
The 2005 tape prompted a stream of elected Republicans, including Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Rob Portman of Ohio, to denounce their party’s nominee. But many women voters said the tape shouldn’t have been surprising.
Debbie Manzanares, a Republican from Colorado, won’t cast a vote for Trump, but the tapes aren’t the reason.
“If anyone’s surprised,” she said. “They haven’t been listening.”
Marie Cote, of New Hampshire, is one voter who said the tape did sway her vote. Cote, 60, said she was on the fence about voting for Trump because she sees him as a “go-getter.” But she has five daughters, and Trump’s comments about grabbing and kissing women disturbed her.
“It concerns me about what their future will be like if he’s president,” she said.
Cote said she’s now leaning toward voting for Clinton but hasn’t decided, adding, “It is hard for women.” Cote said she thinks it’s fair game for Trump to link Hillary Clinton to her husband’s infidelities: “She must’ve known he was a womanizer.”
Still, some female voters said they planned to vote for Trump despite being appalled by his latest remarks. Susan Broadwell of New Hampshire, who wore a “Nobody for President” shirt as she grocery shopped, said some of Trump’s behavior is “distressing, to say the least.” But she said Trump’s words pale in comparison to some of Clinton’s actions, particularly her response to the 2012 attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya.
Broadwell, 56, met Trump at a rally in New Hampshire earlier this year. She said she appreciates that he is the same person in public and in private.
“I’m willing to see what he can do,” she said.
But others said they’ll vote for Johnson because they dislike Clinton and Trump so deeply. Cynthia Isom of Pennsylvania said the recording reveals Trump’s true thoughts on women and that she felt he was trying to intimidate Clinton in Sunday’s debate.
“I just can’t look in the mirror and say I voted for either one of them,” she said.
Democrats like Anne Green of Pennsylvania wonder how any women could vote for Trump at this point.
“If any woman votes for Trump, they’re out of their mind, but I do know a few people who are,” she said.