Who, me?

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What Do Women Want? Not Trump.

Margaret Carlson is a Bloomberg View columnist. She was a White House correspondent for Time, a weekly panelist on CNN’s “Capital Gang” and an editor at the New Republic.
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Wouldn’t it be fitting if Donald Trump fell as quickly as he rose and at the hands of those he calls fat pigs and disgusting?

Actually, it would be amazing, because so far no amount of ignorance or vicious insults has popped the Trump balloon. But maybe, just maybe, calling for subjecting women to “some sort of punishment” for having an abortion will do it. In his interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, prison was on the table.

And in case you think his misogyny is not real, Matthews asked if that would go for the father as well as the mother. Nope, just mom.

OK. How many times in this bizarre campaign have we been certain that Trump had gone too far, only to watch him emerge stronger? His 40-plus percent of loyal followers forgive him everything, or even applaud his transgressions as evidence of his refreshing spontaneity or disregard for political correctness. And who can keep track of all of his outrageous claims anyway (remember the 42 percent unemployment rate)?

This time, his comments elicited a collective gasp of indignation from all sides, and he uncharacteristically retreated, a few hours later, clarifying that he’s only after the doctors.

But he hadn’t misspoken, as his team keeps saying. Trump is so new to the pro-life side that he didn’t get the memo from high command that this kind of talk isn’t going to fly in Republican suburbs where national elections are won and lost.

The party has suffered some self-inflicted wounds with candidates who went down in flames for saying that women don’t get pregnant when there is a “legitimate rape” and that pregnancy is “something that’s intended” by God even if due to rape. The word went out to tone it down: Yes, it should be almost impossible to get an abortion, but women who do should also be treated as victims, not perpetrators. So you send the doctor up the river instead.

Trump blew the dog whistle for evangelical Christians just a little too loud. They’ve been whispering that he might be a bit wobbly on the commitment the party has made to the right on judicial appointments, on everyone’s mind after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Despite his New York values, his too-recent switch to their side, and his checkered romantic history, Trump wanted them to know that their veto power on who gets appointed is safe with him.

Trump has already dug himself a deep hole with women. An ad produced by an anti-Trump Republican super-PAC ad offers a montage of his most egregious comments, and we don’t want to know what dark place his obsession with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly emanates from. He denounced Senator Ted Cruz’s wife with an unflattering picture and worse words. Then there’s the female reporter who had the nerve to press charges against his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski for allegedly grabbing her at a news conference. Trump has portrayed his aide as a hero for protecting him from a potential assassin (the reporter was holding a pen that Trump says could have been “a little bomb” or “a knife”).

It’s not much of a surprise then that Trump’s standing with women already was abysmal. In Wisconsin, which holds a primary April 5, a Marquette University poll showed his negatives among women at 70 percent and among Republican women at 45 percent. Women aren’t a voting bloc, like vegan millennials. They’re a majority, and they vote.

Trump almost boasts that he doesn’t need to take the time to learn about difficult issues, or read much. On foreign policy, he’s too busy looking in the mirror and seeing an expert looking back, to figure out the nuclear triad. 

Just in the last week he advocated a major retrenchment from NATO and the Geneva Conventions; said he would appoint Supreme Court justices who would investigate Hillary Clinton’s e-mails; suggested that Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia get nuclear weapons; and said that as president he wouldn’t rule out using nukes in Europe if necessary. In an instance of conservative heresy, he would make health care and education two of the top three functions of the federal government.

There’s a rough consensus on abortion when it’s not a football being tossed around by politicians. No one likes it, but few want a 13-year-old who lives in hopelessness, with a boyfriend who has disappeared, or an abusive uncle who hasn’t, to be forced to have a baby. But neither do they want her to abort it after eight months.

Trump’s fresh, uninformed pro-life position was that the 13-year-old needed to be punished beyond the life she leads already. He may have scored some points with those at the furthest edges of the far right, but he lost many more of those who live closer to the messy middle.

Every so often we get a peek behind the curtain. Trump will move on as he always has when he accidentally reveals his dark heart. He may keep the most misogynistic among his base with him, but he won’t keep enough women to balance it out. There are way more of us.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Margaret Carlson at mcarlson3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Max Berley at mberley@bloomberg.net