As New York billionaire Donald Trump heads into the Wisconsin primary Tuesday, he trails his main rival Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas by ten points in the state and faces a wider gender gap than any GOP candidate in recent history. Trump has a whopping 77 percent unfavorable rating among women, according to a recent CNN poll.
The flamboyant Republican frontrunner campaigns these days without the comforting presence of his glamorous 34-year-old daughter Ivanka, a fixture for many months on the trail as Trump patted her baby bump at press conferences. Ivanka gave birth Easter to a boy named Theodore.
Given Trump’s history of sexism, he needs all the help he can get. His attacks on high powered women like former GOP candidate Carly Fiorina and Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly — who earned his ire, ironically, by asking about his history of vicious personal remarks against women who have criticized him — have backfired on the thin-skinned real estate developer.
Trump still has plenty of support from prominent women, though, among them the loathed right wing columnist Ann Coulter (although she wishes he could be a “teeny little bit less low brow”), former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the fabled “Mama Grizzly” who has endorsed him, and successful women in his own extended family.
Melania Trump, a former model who has taken heat for posing partially naked on a bear rug for British GQ 16 years ago, is nonetheless a “very private person,” Trump has said, noting she initially would have preferred he didn’t run. She seems to act as fan, sounding board and eye candy for improvised political career.
His lesser-known but highly respected older sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, is a 78-year-old senior judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit Court in Philadelphia. Barry, appointed in 1982 by Ronald Reagan and promoted by Bill Clinton, has admitted that Trump helped her get appointed to the first federal judgeship in New Jersey. “There’s no question Donald helped me get on the bench — I was good but not that good,” she was quoted as stating in Gwenda Blair’s The Trumps: Three Generations That Built An Empire.
Donald Trump’s late lawyer Roy Cohn, the notorious Manhattan power broker and former counsel to red-hunting Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin, has also been cited as putting pressure on a senior Reagan White House aide to get Barry the appointment. “I’m no different than any other brother that loves his sister,” Trump said when asked by the New York Times about Cohn’s machinations. He added, however, “My sister got the appointment totally on her own.”
Barry, who is tall with enhanced blonde hair similar to that of her brother’s, has described Trump as a “brat” in his younger days. She has come under fire herself by pro-life zealot Cruz, who has called her a “radical pro-abortion extremist.” (Cruz’s only source was Barry’s 2000 opinion for a three-judge panel striking down a New Jersey law banning partial birth abortions, on grounds the statute was so broad it could apply to almost any abortion, no matter what its stage).
Trump, of course, has changed his own positions on abortion with neck-breaking speed. In 1999, he stated in an interview that he was “very pro-choice” and even supported partial birth abortions. But since becoming presidential candidate, he claims to have “evolved” into a Christian-pro-life candidate, telling MSBC’s Chris Matthews earlier this week on the fly that he believes women should get “some form of punishment” for illegal abortions in the event the procedure is banned. He quickly recanted that heresy after it drew a firestorm of opposition on social media and on both sides of the activist aisle.
Meanwhile, in his business practices, Donald Trump often get high marks from current and former female employees as a fair and even handed boss. “From the standpoint of being a woman, I just thought he was phenomenal,” said Louise Sunshine, 74, who joined Trump’s real estate business while raising three young children. “He gave me the ropes and I could either hang myself or prove myself,” she noted in an 2015 interview with the Washington Post.
(Sunshine claims, however, that Trump would show her an unflattering “fat picture” he had of her when she did something he didn’t like, a charge he denies. It was “a reminder that I wasn’t perfect,” she said.)
Ivanka Trump, who has two other children besides her aforementioned newborn, remains involved in her father’s real estate development company and has her own line of jewelry and clothing. She disputed comments that her father is a world class misogynist. “I don’t think he’s gender-oriented at all,” Ivanka Trump told CNN. “I wouldn’t be a high level executive within the Trump Organization if he felt that way.”
Norma Foerderer, Donald Trump’s top aide for 26 years until she retired in 2006 (she died in 2013 in her 80s), told Ronald Kessler of Newsmax that there there are two Donalds: the “outrageous” one portrayed on television and the real one the insiders know.
Foerderer began as Trump’s secretary and rose to vice president. She was in charge of numerous aspects of his business, including media relations and hiring and firing administrative personnel. She also negotiated book deals and advertising contracts.
“Donald can be totally outrageous, but outrageous in a wonderful way that gets him coverage,” Foerderer said “That persona sells his licensed products and his condominiums.” She claimed, however, that the private Donald Trump is “the dearest, most thoughtful, most loyal, most caring man, and it’s one of his secrets to success.”
Trump has employed women in non-traditional roles and once told this reporter in the 1970s that he had hired a female construction worker. Barbare Res, who he put in charge of construction of his glittering Trump Tower in 1982, told the Washington Post that Trump used to tell her and others that “men are better than women, but a good woman is better than 10 men.”
Res, now in her 60s, and owner of a construction consulting company, said Trump “wasn’t discriminating against women that I saw” but added, “He was sexist; he made comments and stuff like that.”
Yes, Trump can’t seem to stop commenting, even about Ted Cruz’s wife. Res, according to the Washington Post, said she disagrees with his views on abortion and on his repeated vows to end the Affordable Care Act. She noted that she will be voting for Hillary Clinton.
Photo: Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Fountain Hills, Arizona. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni