While Democratic women set campaign records, Republican women are forced to watch from the sidelines.
All indications suggest 2018 is shaping up to be a historic Year of the Woman in America politics. A record number of women candidates are running for Congress — 400 in the House alone.
But Republican women represent a minimal part of the wave. Saddled with a misogynist and philanderer as leader of their party, lots of Republican women are actually being told to sit this cycle out since it looks to be so bad for the GOP with Trump in the White House.
“It’s a Catch-22 for us,” Meghan Milloy, co-founder of Republican Women for Progress, tells Huffington Post. “A lot of good moderate Republican women who want to run for office, our advice is ‘You’re a good candidate, you would probably win in any other year, let’s wait.'”
On the Democratic side, there’s no such thing as a wait-for-the-next-cycle mentality among eager candidates.
More than 400 women will file to run for the House in 2018, up from 272 in 2016, according to the Center for American Women and Politics. Three-quarters of those 400 candidates are Democrats.
At least 50 women filed to run for congressional seats in the March 6 primary election in Texas. Of those women running in the deeply red state, 36 were Democrats.
Since Trump’s shocking 2016 victory, 30,000 women have contacted the pro-choice group EMLY’S List to inquire about running for some type of elected office. By contrast, during all of 2015 and 2016, just 900 women contacted the group about running for office during that election cycle.
Trump isn’t the only reason for the imbalance in candidates. Women remain nearly invisible from Republican leadership roles in Congress. Last year, they were famously locked out of the GOP’s Senate working group that oversaw the party’s failed attempt to overturn Obamacare.
At the same time, Trump’s support among women voters has cratered this year. The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that his job performance is now viewed negatively by 59 percent of women.
“Trump’s poor performance among women poses a pronounced threat to his re-election ambitions,” RealClear Politics noted last month.
News that Trump is trying to keep porn star Stormy Daniels from talking about her affair with him, just as Trump’s wife was giving birth to their son, has only damaged Trump’s standing with women voters.
That could especially hurt Republican women in November if they’re seen as defending Trump. But in order to gain the local or statewide nomination, they need to win the primary where pro-Trump feelings dominate the GOP.
Former Arizona state Sen. Debbie Lesko, the Republican candidate in the special election for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District, recently learned that the hard way, when she criticized Trump during a radio debate last month.
“I don’t know that he can lead on that issue, but he certainly needs to deal with it and it has to be investigated,” she said. “I don’t use his rhetoric, and I’m certainly not going to sexually harass anyone.”
But days later, she changed her tune and said she “didn’t mean a formal investigation.”
Clearly, it’s very difficult to win a GOP nomination by running against Trump. That leaves lots of Republican women in the position of basically having to cover up their Trump feelings.
“We have a few women who are very moderate, very much against Trump,” says Milloy. “But in order to compete in their primaries they need to be a little more to the right than they actually are. If they win then the hope is they can express their views more freely in the general.”
By comparison, lots of campaigns for Democratic women are being fueled by unmasked contempt for Trump. There’s no need to dance around his obvious sins.