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Sen. Ted Cruz is riding a favorable Wisconsin wave to shore up his support among women voters.
On the heels of Donald Trump’s controversial remarks – then damage-control attempts – about how women who get abortions should be punished, Cruz is assertively trying to appeal to this electoral bloc in the state, according to Politico.
Cruz has a significant edge over Trump among women voters in Wisconsin, which is to hold its primary on Tuesday.
The Texas firebrand hopes for a strong showing in the Badger state that will give him enduring momentum going into the GOP presidential convention in July.
His camp also sees a Wisconsin win – and robust female support – as ammunition for arguing that Trump’s widely criticized remarks about certain women, and seeming insensitivity to issues of importance to them, would be a huge liability in the general election.
Recent polls have shown Cruz leading Trump by anywhere from five to 10 points, according to published reports.
Cruz, 44, last week launched the “Women for Cruz” coalition, starring his wife, Heidi, his mother and his two young daughters.
He also proclaimed at a campaign event in the state that he has been “blessed my whole life to be surrounded by strong women.”
“I would hand it to Sen. Cruz and his people,” said Penny Nance, head of Concerned Women for America, a conservative activist group, according to Politico. “They really are working hard to shore up what they see as an area of vulnerability for him.”
Trump has relied on Sarah Palin, the former vice presidential candidate and Alaska's former governor, to help bolster his appeal to women. He also has indicated that his wife, Melania, will be a future events after Wisconsin and that his daughter, Ivanka, who recently gave birth to her third child, will get back on the campaign trail.
Still, the Cruz campaign hopes Wisconsin adds a new dimension to the race for the Republican nomination.
An unnamed source described as someone “close to the campaign” was quoted in Politico as saying: “My hope is that Wisconsin becomes the trend that starts the numbers to move in our favor, especially with women and younger voters.”
“If we can start seeing that movement nationally, that’s really going to benefit us. … But we don’t know if Wisconsin is the start of a national trend or not.”
Trump’s most recent troubles occurred when the mogul poked fun at Heidi Cruz, posting an unflattering photo of her alongside a glamorous shot of his wife.
There were several other remarks suggesting indifference to women, followed by the remark about women who have abortions. Trump later tried to walk back those comments by saying that doctors who perform the abortions, not the women themselves, should be punished.
Despite much earlier hostile remarks about certain women, polls of Wisconsin voters Trump still enjoyed strong GOP female support. Cruz trailed Trump among women. As recently as mid-March, for instance, a Quinnipiac poll showed Trump with the support of 40 percent of Republican women, compared with Cruz, who had 28 percent.
Last week, however, a Marquette Law School (located in Wisconsin) poll showed Cruz beating Trump among men and women in the state. He was ahead of Trump among Republican men by five points, and among women by 15 points.
Chelsea Bashi, a 25-year-old Cruz campaign volunteer from Pennsylvania who was in Wisconsin working for the senator, said to Politico: “I believe Cruz supports all kinds of strong women. Trump is intimidated by strong women.”
Vicki McKenna, a conservative radio host in Wisconsin, said that Trump’s brash comments about women were a turn-off in a state known for frowning on flashiness and aggression by political candidates.
“We’re not an identity politics kind of state. Republicans are not an identity politics kind of party,” McKenna said. “But women in Wisconsin just looked at the lack of substance, like everybody else did, and said, ‘Nah.’”