By Jarrett Renshaw
(Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign is hosting events in 2020 battleground states on Thursday to mobilise and train suburban women, an important voting bloc that defected from Republicans during last year’s congressional contests.
The campaign representatives – who include conservative commentators, a former “Apprentice” contestant, a beauty pageant winner and campaign and White House staff – will try to persuade women to talk openly about their support for Trump and encourage others to do the same.
“We want to empower women to share their stories about why they support President Trump and help bring more supporters into the fold,” said Erin Perrine, a deputy press secretary who will host an event in North Carolina.
A campaign official involved with the planning said they expect hundreds of attendees at gatherings in 13 states including Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio.
Much of the talk will focus on Trump’s economic record and how he has kept his promises on issues like immigration and healthcare, the officials said.
It was not clear how those discussions will unfold. While Trump’s efforts to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border have stalled, he has persisted in a controversial effort to crack down on immigration, including separating families.
A promise to lower prescription drug plans has not been met, and his hope of riding a strong economy into 2020 is facing headwinds from signs a recession may be looming.
The events, which coincide with the 99th anniversary of women suffrage, are being put together in part by the Trump Victory Leadership Initiative, a grassroots arm of the campaign that will target key demographic groups in the months leading up to November’s election.
The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll, conducted this week, shows 39% of women approve of Trump’s performance in office and 56% disapprove. The numbers have hovered at these levels for a year.
Perrine said the numbers did not reflect the true level of support from Trump among women, however. She noted, for example, that 51% of the donors in the latest quarter were women.
“We all know about the silent Trump supporter,” Perrine said.
Trump has had a checkered history with women, from messy divorces and allegations of sexual harassment to a video that came out during his 2016 election campaign that showed him bragging about how his money and power allowed him to “grab” women anywhere he liked.
In 2016, women overall favoured Democrat Hillary Clinton, the first woman nominated for president by a major party, by roughly a 12-point margin over Trump. White women in particular ended up voting for Trump by nearly the same margin, exit polls showed.
Tana Goertz, who competed on Trump’s reality television show “Apprentice” more than a decade ago and will be hosting an event in Iowa, says voter contact will be key to winning.
“Yes, I am going to motivate them and give them techniques, but I am also get them registration information, other data and help turn them out,” said Goertz, who is now a Trump campaign staffer.
(Reporting By Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Sonya Hepinstall)