It's complicated.

Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

How Young Republican Women React to Trump

Francis Barry writes editorials on politics and U.S. domestic policy for Bloomberg View. He was director of public affairs and chief speechwriter for New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. He is the author of “The Scandal of Reform: The Grand Failures of New York City’s Political Crusaders and the Death of Nonpartisanship.”
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The New York Young Republican Club gathered to watch Sunday night’s presidential debate at Madison Square Tavern, near Penn Station. The club opted for a different location than the first debate watch, held next to a gentlemen’s cabaret called Lace. A little advance work can go a long way.

People began arriving at the bar’s basement party room around seven o’clock, two hours before the debate. Not all were club members. Crystal and Lindsay, independents visiting from California, admitted sotto voce they were supporting Hillary Clinton. “Don’t tell anyone,” said Crystal, “but we couldn’t get into the Regal Theater in Union Square,” where the debate would be playing on a big screen. What about the Young Democrats’ party? “We didn’t even bother to try.”

They had no trouble getting a table at Madison Square Tavern. Filling a room in Manhattan with Republicans under 40 is nearly as hard as filling a casino in Atlantic City. Beside Crystal and Lindsay sat three women visiting from Norway, who came for the spectacle. Another tourist, Svenja from Germany, said the “Access Hollywood" audiotape of Trump boasting about kissing and grabbing women without their consent had made headlines back home: “We can’t believe that he’s actually a presidential candidate.”

As the hour approached, the room became more crowded with actual New York Republicans. Women used similar terms to describe Trump’s comments: Inappropriate. Gross. Disgusting. But only one had changed her mind about voting for him: “I couldn’t forgive that,” said Danielle, who had been a Jeb Bush supporter.

“Really?” asked her friend, Lauren, placing hand over heart in disbelief. She contended that Trump’s groping talk was a distraction from the serious issues facing the country. (“What about the two cops that were shot?” she asked of the two Palm Springs police officers killed on Saturday.) To her, Trump had nothing to apologize for: “I’m sorry, it’s how guys talk.” (Not all guys, she clarified.) Others at the bar said much the same. Besides, they argued, Clinton bullying and smearing the women in her husband’s past was a worse offense than Trump’s words.

Rebecca, wearing a “Hot Chicks Vote Republican” pin: “I think it’s far worse for women to say these things about a woman than a man to say these things. As a woman, you know how important it is to be heard, and if something happens against you sexually, you would expect other women to speak up and protect you.”

Kristen, wearing a Buffalo Bills hat and shirt, charged Trump’s critics with being out of touch not only about the way some men talk, but also about the way some women feel. “How did ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ sell 80 million copies if women didn’t want to hear that kind of stuff?” Not her, she made clear. But plenty of others.   

Yet she was concerned by Trump’s boast that as a celebrity, he could do anything he wants, including grabbing women’s genitals. “If you can get away with it and that’s your mentality, what do you think you can do as president?” She would still be voting for him.

The debate began. Six minutes in, Trump responded to a question about his “Access Hollywood” comments, saying “Nobody has more respect for women than I do.” The room erupted in laughter.

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:
Francis Barry at fbarry5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Christopher Flavelle at cflavelle@bloomberg.net