By Daniel Nichanian – – – – – –
We are used to hearing about a gender gap among the U.S. electorate. But the 2016 election — and, more specifically, Donald Trump — has produced a new gender gap, this one among the Republican Party’s elected officials.
On Friday, The Washington Post released a tape of Trump bragging about being able to commit sexual assault, and since then many GOP officials have distanced themselves from their party’s presidential nominee. As of Tuesday morning, 63 Republican governors, U.S. senators and U.S. representatives have announced that they do not support Trump.1 That number, which represents nearly one-fifth of the party’s top elected officials, is up from 19 on Friday and 41 on Saturday afternoon.
But Republican women have been far more likely to rally against Trump than the party’s men: 42 percent of all Republican women serving in Congress or as governor have now stated that they do not support Trump, versus just 17 percent of the men.
This rift has emerged since the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape. On Friday morning, the share of these high-ranking Republican men and women who had plainly stated an opposition to Trump was far more comparable (about 6 percent of each group).
In the U.S. Senate, five of the six Republican women have now abandoned Trump. (That compares to just 12 out of 48 Republican men.) Sen. Susan Collins of Maine had already announced her opposition to Trump over the summer. Senators Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska joined her over the weekend. Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa still backs Trump.
In the U.S. House, 32 percent of Republican women are now opposed to Trump, compared to only 13 percent of Republican men. Rep. Kay Granger, the only Republican woman to have ever been elected to a full term in the U.S. House from Texas, is among the highest-profile defections Trump has suffered since Friday.
Another axis along which Republican officials are split is whether they represent blue-leaning territory. Only 46 percent of the GOP officials whose state or district was carried by President Obama in 2012 support Trump, versus 83 percent of those whose state or district was carried by Mitt Romney.
Some Republicans from blue-leaning areas had already announced their opposition to Trump over the summer, but this trend has accelerated since Friday. Eight of the Republicans who have newly fled Trump are facing voters this fall in areas that Obama won. They are Ayotte, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, Rep. Joe Heck (Nevada’s 3rd District, running for Senate), Rep. Cresent Hardy (Nevada’s 4th Congressional District), Rep. John Katko (New York’s 24th District), Rep. Frank LoBiondo (New Jersey’s 2nd District), Rep. Erik Paulsen (Minnesota’s 3rd District), and Rep. David Reichert (Washington’s 8th District). Most were already considered highly vulnerable before the latest revelations. Some endangered Republicans in districts that Romney carried only narrowly, such as Rep. Rodney Davis (Illinois’s 13th District) and Rep. Will Hurd (Texas’s 23rd District), have also said they will not vote for Trump this weekend.
These departures still leave 15 Republicans in Obama-won territory who are either supporting Trump or have not clarified how they will vote, starting with the highly vulnerable Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania,2 Rep. Frank Guinta (New Hampshire 1st District), and Rep. Bruce Poliquin (Maine’s 2nd District). In addition, Republican Senators Roy Blunt of Missouri and Richard Burr of North Carolina, two of the cycle’smost endangered senators, restated their support of Trump.
Democrats’ ability — or inability — to tarnish the image of Republicans who are sticking with Trump will go a long way toward determining control of the Senate and the less-likely-to-flip House. Democrats have already releasednew television ads seeking to tie GOP candidates to Trump’s 2005 comments.
Daniel Nichanian is a postdoctoral fellow and lecturer in political science at the University of Chicago @taniel