Trump's a disaster with women voters - and not just on abortion

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump points as he speaks at a campaign stop, Wednesday, March 30, 2016, in Appleton, Wis Image copyright AP

Donald Trump said women who have abortions should be punished, he made crude insinuations about a TV anchor's menstrual cycle and he doesn't change nappies or do bedtimes.

No wonder he's struggling in the polls with women voters - it would be remarkable if he wasn't.

Before we get to the latest brouhaha over abortions, let's take the last point first.

Donald Trump says he loves women. He says he employs lots of senior women in his company. His daughter, Ivanka, is clearly a powerhouse. He also claims that he will be the best candidate for women.

But how, in 2016, does that square with having such an old-fashioned view of parenting duties?

One of the biggest things holding professional women back from participating full-time in the workforce is not having husbands who are prepared to share 50% of all child-rearing chores.

Image copyright Getty Images

It is really hard for a woman to put in the time needed to succeed at work if her husband won't pitch in fully at home. By saying, almost boasting, that nappy changing isn't for him, Mr Trump is not being a good role model for other men.

He is sending a subliminal message that women should do mother's work while he gets on with the business. Not helpful - or, in Trumpish - sad!

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It is part of an old-fashioned machismo that the Trump campaign has cultivated. A lot of it is about sex and sexual conquests. Boasting about the size of your penis on a TV debate was only one incident.

Years ago Mr Trump called Tucker Carlson, a TV presenter who'd insulted the famous "Trump coif", and left him a message saying Carlson had better hair but Trump had more sex with women (and he said it in a far more indelicate way).

In 1997, Mr Trump triumphantly told a radio host he could have "nailed" Princess Diana.

And - in what must count as two of the more bizarre statistics of this campaign - according to a recent study by dating site Match (formerly single Donald Trump supporters are 1,104% more likely to expect sex on a first date than Hillary Clinton supporters.

They are also 99% more likely to film themselves having sex. I think this means they are more likely to be men.

Promoting your sexual prowess works well with men who feel threatened by the growing influence of women in the workforce, and by the realisation that women are now better educated than men.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Donald Trump has insulted Fox News presenter Megyn Kelly

In the New York Times, conservative columnist David Brooks, refers to it is as the enabling of a "bad-boy protest movement". But this regressive gender stereotyping is less appealing to women.

According to a March NBC/WSJ poll 47% of female Republican primary voters cannot see themselves voting for Trump while only 32% say the same about Ted Cruz.

And Mr Trump consistently has a 20-odd point gap in support between men and women. A gap he has acknowledged he needs to do something about.

Which brings us to the unique U-turn Mr Trump performed on Wednesday after saying in a televised town hall event that women who have abortions should be punished. He quickly put out a statement reversing that position.

He did so after howls of protests from both pro-life and pro-choice groups.

It isn't easy to bring these two deeply divided sides together in common cause, but, for a few moments, Mr Trump succeeded. Punishing the woman has never been the position of even the most ardent anti-abortionists here.

Sticking to that original town hall statement would have made it very difficult for Mr Trump to close his gap with women voters.

Since single, suburban women will probably decide the outcome of this election, that is something Mr Trump has to do to become president.