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Trump's standing with women could trip up other Colorado candidates

October 16, 2016 Updated: October 16, 2016 at 3:18 pm
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To say Donald Trump has a woman problem in November is like saying Pikes Peak has a snow problem in January. The question is whether he will trigger an anti-Republican avalanche and, if so, how far it will slide down the ticket.

More than a year ago, Democratic and Republican pollsters and insiders in Colorado said suburban, college-educated women - who have tended to support Republicans in large enclaves such as Briargate and Highlands Ranch - would prove to be a critical swing bloc in Colorado this year.

"I usually vote Republican, but I'm with her this time around, because Trump is terrible," said Shirley Bates, a 20-something stay-at-home mom and military wife, as she stood in line Tuesday to enter a Hillary Clinton rally in Pueblo.

But whether Republican men, especially those facing female opponents, pay a price isn't an easy answer. Could Colorado Republican women and right-leaning moderates throw out their local babies with the top-of-the-ticket bathwater?

"Women may skip the vote on the top of the ticket and just vote in down-ballot races," said Elizabeth Coggins, an assistant professor in political science at Colorado College who studies the underpinnings of why voters prefer particular candidates.

"I know that that's what those running in Colorado are hoping. They're trying to return to the Tip O'Neill days of that all politics is local."

The numbers spell out the potential impact of a dissuaded female electorate.

According to the Secretary of State's Office, more than 1.6 million women are registered to vote in Colorado, compared with fewer than 1.5 million men. In El Paso County, registered women voters outnumber men 190,387 to 172,950.

But there are more men on the inactive voter roll - 306,025 to 288,765.

"We know that women tend to turn out to vote at slightly higher rates than men," Coggins added, "maybe something having to do with a higher sense of civic duty."

Women leaders react

State House Democratic leader Crisanta Duran of Denver said Trump's history of comments about women defined and doomed him long before release of the bombshell 2005 video clip, which she called "a very clear message to Colorado women."

"Friday's vulgar tape audio further reinforced that feeling for many women, in my mind," said Duran, who spoke in support of Clinton at the Democratic National Convention. "I mean, it's 2016 and a major party's presidential nominee is bragging about sexual assault? Is this really happening? That's just unacceptable."

Debbie Brown, executive director of the right-leaning Colorado Women's Alliance, said the Republican Party is in "a nightmare scenario for women voters."

"While the GOP base will overlook Trump's indiscretions in favor of Hillary's history of corruption, unaffiliated women will find it difficult to forgive Trump's latest statements," said Brown, head of an organization that does research and outreach to women voters. "They are interested in credible candidates who talk about solutions, and frankly neither party is doing a good job."

Brown said Colorado women likely disdain "endless attacks and mean-spiritedness."

She thinks this election could be a turning point, however.

"Each party will likely reflect on their own divisive primaries and how their party will tackle issues related to brand identity and policy platform," Brown predicted.

In Trump's shadow

Trump's implosion with female voters could be troublesome for other male Republicans in Colorado. Coggins noted that ticket splitting - when voters choose candidates of different parties in different races - historically has accounted for less than 5 percent of ballots.

Darryl Glenn, a loyal Trump supporter through a number of controversies, at first called for Trump to drop out, but two days later he was back in the nominee's corner, telling Fox News he was committed to being Trump's "captain" in Colorado.

Glenn's campaign declined comment for this story.

Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton of Cortez is challenged by former state Sen. Gail Schwartz of Crested Butte in the 3rd Congressional District. Tipton maintained his support for Trump in the wake of the lewd audio tape.

U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn faces Army veteran and transgender woman Misty Plowright in Colorado Springs' 5th Congressional District.

Long-shot Republican candidate Casper Stockham is trying to unseat 20-year incumbent Diana DeGette in Denver's 1st Congressional District. Stockham was the only congressional candidate to greet Eric Trump, the nominee's son, when he visited the campaign's Denver office Monday, waiting to get a photo with the younger Trump.

Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman of Aurora is in a fight with state Sen. Morgan Carroll in the 6th Congressional District. Coffman, running in a district that is racially and politically diverse, has done more than perhaps any other congressional candidate to distance himself from Trump, even vowing in a TV ad to "stand up" to his party's nominee.

"This is the same Mike Coffman who survived the anti-Bush, anti-Iraq War tidal wave in 2006 after all," said his spokeswoman, Cinamon Watson. Coffman has not lost a political race in Colorado since joining the state House in 1989.

"Mike will do well with women for the same reason as he does well with all voters - he's independent, he's a leader and he does his absolute best representing the people of this state," Watson said.

Trump's long odds

Colorado pollster Floyd Ciruli said Trump likely sealed his low standing with women well before the 2005 "hot mic" recording was released. Ciruli has monitored Trump's standing with female voters closely, he said.

Trump had pulled close to Clinton in Colorado in polls before their first debate Sept. 26. The demographic Trump most needed to reassure in that meeting was suburban, college-educated women of middle class or higher means who have tended to vote for Republicans in Colorado, Ciruli said.

Trump came off in the debate as temperamental, aggressive and eager to "mansplain." In the immediate days after that performance, he criticized the weight and personal reputation of a former Miss Universe cited in the debate by Clinton.

"That first debate blew it open," Ciruli said. "Well before the hot knife came out, he was sinking fast with women in Colorado and nationally."

Even before the 2005 audio surfaced Oct. 7, polling by Quinnipiac University on Oct. 5 and Oct. 6 said Clinton led with female voters nationally by 20 percent. Trump led with men 49 percent to 37 percent.

An Oct. 3 Monmouth University poll suggested that in Colorado Clinton's support with women, at the time, was softening, but women still backed Clinton over Trump by 49 percent to 36 percent.

Eric Trump campaigned in Colorado for his father Monday, offering damage control.

"People want the same thing in this country: We want a prosperous country," he said. "We want jobs in this country. We want a strong economy. We want safety. We want incomes to rise. We want people to be taken care of. We want a good health care system. We want a great education for our kids.

"Unfortunately, our country doesn't have any of that anymore."

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