GOP women frustrated by Trump's approach to abuse charges

US President Donald Trump talks to journalists during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos. (Michael Probst, AP, file)
US President Donald Trump talks to journalists during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos. (Michael Probst, AP, file)

Washington - The Trump White House's handling of abuse charges against men in its midst is frustrating prominent Republican women as the party's years long struggle to attract female voters stretches into the 2018 midterm elections.

"It's the mixed signals. They've just got to be stronger, more consistent; clearer in the message" to women, Senator Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican from West Virginia said on Tuesday.

"It's difficult being a Republican woman to have to fight through that all the time."

READ: White House says Trump 'shocked' by allegations against aides

The thrice-married Trump added a new chapter to his difficult history with female voters in the past week by refusing to offer public words of support to the ex-wives of two senior presidential aides.

Rob Porter, the president's staff secretary, resigned last week after ex-wives Colbie Holderness and Jennifer Willoughby came forward with allegations of abuse.

Sympathy

DailyMail.com published photos of Holderness with a black eye. Porter denied harming either of them.

A second White House official, Trump speechwriter David Sorensen, left the White House last Friday after his ex-wife, Jessica Corbett, described physical abuse that included being thrown into a wall and burned by a cigarette.

He too denied the allegations.

But Trump has had only good things to say about Porter and voiced sympathy for him. The president has refused to express support for the women involved or personally condemn domestic abuse.

"People's lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new," Trump said in a tweet on Saturday.

"There is no recovery for someone falsely accused - life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?"

The tweet especially frustrated Republicans.

"I'm extremely disappointed in this situation. Abuse is never OK," Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican from Iowa said on CNN on Tuesday.

The president still hammers at his vanquished 2016 rival, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, whom he once threatened to throw in prison.

Trump bragging

His support among Republicans wavered just before Election Day with the release of an Access Hollywood recording in which Trump can be heard bragging about grabbing women by their genitals.

And more than a dozen women have accused Trump of harassing or assaulting them. Trump called them liars and said he'd sue them - though that hasn't happened.

The White House says Americans issued their verdict on all of that when they elected Trump.

Some 42% of women voted for Trump, while 56% went for Clinton. That's similar to the gender gap for Bill Clinton in 1996 and Barack Obama in 2012.

Among registered voters, more than half of women - 54% - identify as Democrats or lean Democratic, compared with 38% who say they align with Republicans, according to 2016 Pew Research Center statistics.

But winning over women has long been an uphill battle for the GOP, and there are signs in recent polling that Trump is making it more difficult.

Most recent surveys have shown Democrats running ahead in national preference polls for Congress.

Some GOP activists said Trump's approach risks alienating moderate Republican women.

"The party and party leadership has had so many opportunities to try to right its wrongs, and Donald Trump's wrongs, with women, to take a stand... and they haven't," said Meghan Milloy, co-founder of Republican Women for Progress, previously called Republicans for Hillary.

The GOP, she said, "is going to start losing women".

Jennifer Horn, former New Hampshire Republican chair, added: "Every single time the president tries to excuse a man who has assaulted women, it makes it harder and harder for our candidates to run credible campaigns."

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