On a blustery Saturday, as thousands of people braved the flurries outdoors, inside the Expo Center in Wausau, Wisconsin, Sarah Palin was on fire.
“Who is the only candidate who promotes women in his own company and has shattered the glass ceiling, decades before that was a popular thing to do? Who respects the women?” the former Alaska governor asked this weekend.
The answer, of course, was the man she was there to introduce: Donald Trump.
But the Republican front-runner also has a complicated history with women, many of whom remain firmly in his camp. Through his years as a New York businessman, he has lobbed insults at women whom he seems to detest, as well as those he admires.
To cite a few examples, he has used phrases such as “bimbo,” “young and beautiful piece of a**,” “disgusting” to refer to a breast-feeding mother, “loser,” “slob,” and, infamously, referred to journalist Megyn Kelly as having blood coming from some unnamed orifice.
Meanwhile, the majority of female registered voters have unfavorable views of Trump, according to two recent polls. In a March 23 Quinnipiac poll, 67 percent of female registered voters had unfavorable views of Trump. And in a CNN poll the next day, the network reported that 74 percent of female registered voters had unfavorable views of him.
But if Donald Trump has a problem with women, don’t tell that to his female supporters.
Michelle Fowarski, a consultant from Mosinee, Wisconsin, has been a Trump supporter for decades, and was on hand Saturday in Wausau.
Asked about an anti-Trump super PAC ad that invoked some of the slurs he has used to describe women, including “dog” and “fat pig,” Fowarski said, “Well, maybe they [the women] are.”
Her friend, Wendy Morris, agreed: “We love Trump totally!”
At a campaign event here in La Crosse today, Ruth Benidt, a retired teacher from Rochester, Minnesota, says she overlooks Trump’s derogatory language.
“They don’t concern me because I think he speaks from the hip. Just because you say those things, I don’t know if that is how you truthfully believe in your heart,” she said.
She believes that Trump “honors women.”
At a recent event in Racine, Wisconsin, Donita Burton also expressed total faith in her candidate.
“He’s very rough, but he has a heart of gold. He’s very soft inside; he just does for people all the time. He does it quietly,” she said.
Kim Leonard, of Tustin, Michigan, admitted Trump has a tendency to lean toward nastiness. “Well, I don’t see anybody that’s ever made it as billionaire that hasn’t been a bit nasty and firm,” she said, shrugging.
Back in Wausau, Trump supporters addressed his retweet of an unflattering picture of Heidi Cruz, wife of Trump rival Ted Cruz.
“Everyone has a bad night,” Fowarski said.
Morris chimed in that “eventually, enough bad stuff is said, you want to get back.”
A man sitting next to her disagreed. “He [Trump] really blew it on that one,” he said.
When it comes to the exit polls, prior to the last mini Super Tuesday, which was March 15, Trump had won the biggest percentage of women’s votes in 11 of the 15 state Republican primaries and caucuses at that point.
After dozens of interviews with women, it is clear that, for so many, Trump is a bastion of strength, the last great hope for an America they feel has gone astray. Any insult hurled or any phrase misspoken doesn’t detract from Trump’s perceived infallibility.
Trump once joked that he could “shoot somebody” in the middle of New York’s Fifth Avenue and, it seems, he may be right, at least in the eyes of some of these forgiving supporters.
Benidt couldn’t imagine what would it would take to deter her. “Boy, if there is, I don’t know what it would be,” she said.
Fowarski added: “We both don’t have the ability to stand up and speak for ourselves and what we feel. We get tongue tied and dry mouthed. He can separate himself from an issue. He’s a negotiator that’s second to none,” Fowarski said.
Fowarski also addressed the abortion issue, saying her sister had been raped. She said she believes that “sometimes a woman should choose,” meaning that Fowarski disagrees with the ban on abortion Trump has proposed in the past, of which Fowarski was not initially aware.
When informed, Fowarski paused before saying, “I think there are bigger things to deal with. Guess what? He’s going to protect us from ISIS.”