Donald Trump's demonizing of women likely to cost him in Wisconsin primary
Donald Trump, seen December 3, 2015, has the backing of one in four Americans -- including 42 percent of Republican respondents -- in a poll released December 10 asking about his plan to ban US travel for Muslims (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

Donald Trump is in the doghouse with women voters, and with Gallup now reporting that 70% of American women have a negative opinion of the Republican frontrunner , even a late appearance by his wife, Melania, likely won’t do much to help him in time for Tuesday’s primary in Wisconsin.

Before now, Trump – the man who bragged in the early 2000s that “I get more pussy than you” and who swore in 1997 “I think I could have” had sex with Princess Diana – has probably never thought too deeply about whether most women like him.

Perhaps the last time he even considered the possibility that women widely disliked him was in the midst of his divorce from Ivana Trump in 1990, when he remarked to a Vanity Fair reporter : “When a man leaves a woman, especially when it was perceived that he has left for a piece of ass – a good one! – there are 50% of the population who will love the woman who was left.”

But the more women dislike and thus refuse to vote for him, the more difficult it will be for him to lock up enough delegates to secure the nomination before the convention, let alone actually win the presidency in November. And while Trump’s comments last week that women should be punished for having abortions set off a firestorm of criticism, many women in Wisconsin were already dead-set against his candidacy long before he began talking about punishing the one in three women who (based on 2008 rates) will have an abortion in their lifetimes .

“With Donald Trump, I’m personally not offended as a woman,” said Donna Swanson of his various statements, after a town hall for John Kasich in Burlington, Wisconsin, on Saturday. A Republican, she explained that she was voting for Kasich because “he’s not threatening to carpet-bomb other nations ” and because of Kasich’s prior experience in government – both implicit contrasts to Trump, rather than explicit indictments of his statements about women.

Betty, a Republican from Elkhorn who declined to give her last name, hadn’t yet decided whether to vote for Kasich or Senator Ted Cruz when she attended the former’s town hall in Janesville on Saturday, but she knew she couldn’t vote for Trump. “Personally, I think if Trump got in, we’ll be in World War III,” she explained.

She, too, said she wasn’t opposed to him because she was a woman: “He was a jerk long before he started putting down women.

“I think you have to know how to have patience, and talk to people, and work things out from there, not just put them down,” she added, by way of explaining why she didn’t like him.

But while Republican women were less inclined to connect their dislike of Trump – the candidate and the man – to their own gender, many Democratic voters had no such compunctions.

At the Founders Day gala in Milwaukee on Saturday night, longtime Democrat and Hillary Clinton supporter Zonia Lopez made a face of revulsion when asked about her feelings about Trump. “He thinks we are just sexual objects,” she said. “He doesn’t have respect for women at all.”

At a skating rink in Madison on Sunday, Amanda Mueller explained that she generally votes Democrat and will in the general election regardless of who wins the primary, but that she might vote in the Republican primary “to weed out the crazies” – meaning Donald Trump.

“He has no respect for my human rights as a female,” she said, lacing up her skates for a roller derby practice.

And though she had heard that Trump had retracted his comments that women who have abortion ought to be punished, she didn’t believe him. “When people retract statements, that’s what they’re really feeling without thinking,” she said. “The fact that that’s how he thinks about my reproductive rights, as a woman, that scares me.”

Fellow Wisconsinite Corina Rusu, who emigrated from Romania and recently became an American citizen in time to vote for Bernie Sanders in the primary, wasn’t any more enthusiastic about a Trump candidacy. “He is an egomaniac,” she explained. “It’s definitely making the United States look bad in the grand scheme of world politics.”

California congresswoman Maxine Waters, who was in Milwaukee to stump for Clinton with local Democratic congresswoman Gwen Moore and Indiana congressman Andre Carson, didn’t think women had to say that there was something sexist about Trump for them to understand that how he reacts to women who disagree with him says something about how he feels about women as a whole.

“I really do believe that, when he started with Carly [Fiorina], that when he said ‘Look at that face’ , I think a lot of women had to stop and think,” she said. “You didn’t hear a lot of talk about it. But every woman had to think: ‘How am I viewed? Is my ability to be successful based on what my face looks like?’”

Moore, whose congressional district includes much of Milwaukee, said: “The Republican narrative has always been that we made up this war on women,” but she, like Waters, suspects that with Trump in the race, such statements hold less water with voters now.

“They’ve got to say something – that women cherish their place in the home and with the kids and that we’re making up this war on women stuff,” she added. “But even women who choose to to stay at home with their kids, we support them having that choice to do that, not being forced by the bishop or the senator or somebody to be a parent.”

Trump, meanwhile, has indicated that he’ll once again look to his daughter, Ivanka, and has enlisted his wife, Melania , to assure women voters that he doesn’t harbor ill will towards half the population.

On stage in Milwaukee Monday night, Melania, the Slovenian-American former model, praised her husband for having a “great heart” and assured the rally “no matter who you are, man or woman, he treats everyone equal”.

Liberal women are unlikely to believe his daughter or his wife that he isn’t prejudiced against women. And Republican women – at last some of whom don’t even think that his problems with women are the real problem with him – aren’t going to have their concerns about his mannerisms, hawkishness and general temperament eased by being told that he didn’t really mean it.

And on Tuesday in Wisconsin, many women will lay a finger on Ted Cruz’s or John Kasich’s name at the voting booth instead of Trump’s, for reasons personal and political. © Guardian News and Media 2016