Trump's target audience for migrant caravan scare tactics: Women

President Trump thinks he knows what motivates women casting ballots for next week’s midterm elections.

As he campaigned in Florida, Missouri, West Virginia and Indiana this week, the president made clear that the reason he had seized upon a caravan of Central American asylum seekers as a campaign issue, portraying them as potential terrorists, dangerous, disease-riddled criminals: He sees such scare tactics as resonating with women voters.

“Women all across the nation are going to show up and vote Republican on Tuesday. They want security. They want safety,” Trump said at a Friday rally in West Virginia. “They don’t want to have these people coming in. They don’t want to have … some of these people are just horrible people. You have to see the crimes they’ve committed.”

With the Republican majority in the House of Representatives looking endangered, Trump has increasingly sought to frame midterms as “about security,” perhaps believing that doing so will help close a gender gap that threatens to bring his administration to halt.

“Because women want safe neighborhoods for their families, right? They want great schools, health care for their children,” Trump said Friday afternoon in West Virginia. “They want to keep drug dealers and predators and traffickers, how about the traffickers, these are human traffickers, these are the worst scum in the world. They want them out of our country and we do that. The Democrats don’t do that. They want the open borders? Fly right in, folks.”

It’s hardly a mystery why Trump is looking for a way to motivate women to vote for his party next Tuesday. According to NPR, a Rutgers University study showed that women have had a higher turnout than men in midterm elections for the last few cycles. That’s worrisome for Republicans, given that a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released in September found that women favored Democrats to take control of Congress by a margin of 58 percent to 33 percent. 

After Trump successfully renegotiated NAFTA with the Mexican government in August, replacing it with the United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement, Trump softened his tone on the United States’ southern neighbor. The migrant caravan from Central American nations like Honduras, then, came at the perfect time. It gave Trump what former President Barack Obama called a “boogeyman” with which to try to scare female voters.

“Did you see how tough these young men, mostly young men, strong, tough, what they did to the police, the Mexican police breaking through the border? What they did to the Mexican military in breaking through the border? These are tough people. These are not angels. These are not little angels,” Trump said while campaigning Thursday in Missouri. “These are tough people, and we’re not letting them into our country. They’re not coming in illegally.”

29 PHOTOS
Migrants traveling in mass caravan break fence at Mexico border
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Migrants traveling in mass caravan break fence at Mexico border
A police officer helps a Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., as she storms a border checkpoint to cross into Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., ties a backpack from the bridge that connects Mexico and Guatemala to avoid the border checkpoint in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., climbs down from the bridge that connects Mexico and Guatemala to avoid the border checkpoint in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., hits the shield of a federal policeman after storming the Guatemalan checkpoint to enter Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., jump and climb down from the bridge that connects Mexico and Guatemala to avoid the border checkpoint as others look while queueing to enter Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A police officer helps a Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., as she storms a border checkpoint to cross into Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A federal policeman gestures as Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., are being pushed by other migrants after storming the Guatemalan checkpoint to enter Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., hits the shield of a federal policeman after storming the Guatemalan checkpoint to enter Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., protects her child as a federal police reacts after migrants stormed the Guatemalan checkpoint to enter Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., jump and climb down from the bridge that connects Mexico and Guatemala to avoid the border checkpoint as others look while queueing to enter Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., are pushed by other migrants after storming the Guatemalan checkpoint to enter Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., jumps from the bridge that connects Mexico and Guatemala to avoid the border checkpoint in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., climbs down from the bridge that connects Mexico and Guatemala with the help of fellow immigrants to avoid the border checkpoint in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., storm a border checkpoint, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., cries after stormed a border checkpoint in Guatemala, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., topple a fence after storming the Guatemala border in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., jumps over a fence in the checkpoint between Guatemala and Mexico in Tecun Uman, Guatemala October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., storm a border checkpoint in Guatemala, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY OR DEATH A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., bleeds after he storms a border checkpoint in Guatemala, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., storm a border checkpoint in Guatemala, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
A police officer helps a Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., as she storms a border checkpoint in Guatemala, in Ciudad Hidalgo, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., fall after storming a border checkpoint in Guatemala, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., storm a border checkpoint in Guatemala, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., storm a border checkpoint, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., climb a fence in an effort to enter Mexico after storming a border checkpoint in Guatemala, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
A Honduran migrant child, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., cries next to a fence in the checkpoint between Guatemala and Mexico in Tecun Uman, Guatemala October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., yell as they storm a border checkpoint, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., react after storming the Guatemala border, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., yells as he storms a border checkpoint, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
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While politicians often disguise their true motives for weaving different themes into a campaign, Trump has been remarkably transparent about why he has spent much of his stump speech talking about the approaching caravan.

“Because women want safe neighborhoods for their families, right? They want great schools, health care for their children,” Trump said in West Virginia. “They want to keep drug dealers and predators and traffickers, how about the traffickers, these are human traffickers, these are the worst scum in the world. They want them out of our country, and we do that. The Democrats don’t do that. They want the open borders, fly right in folks.”

Trump’s election in 2016 was itself a test to see whether the country would respond to a campaign that painted issues in such stark relief. With the migrant caravan now at the center of his midterm strategy, the president is betting that it will be as successful in motivating turnout as was his yet-to-be-built wall on the border with Mexico.

“If you don’t want America to be overrun by masses of illegal aliens and giant caravans, you’d better vote Republican.” Trump said Thursday in Missouri. “If you want to keep drugs, gangs, crimes, if you want to keep human traffickers, think of that, in the history of our country, human traffickers. They steal, they kidnap women, many, many, many women,”  Trump continued, adding, “If you want to keep these people out of our country, vote Republican.”

In his appeals to women voters this week, Trump repeatedly tipped his hand, making his use of the migrant caravan plain for all to see and running the risk of being seen as guilty of projection.

“Border security is also a woman’s issue. You know how they keep talking about women, Trump with women? Remember the last election, ‘Well, Donald Trump won’t do very well with women’? I did great with the women. Look at the signs,” Trump said in West Virginia, gesturing to pink signs handed out at his that read “Women for Trump.”

While the president’s support among Republicans remains high, he lost the 2016 popular vote with women by a margin of 54 percent to 41 percent. Numbers like that are enough to frighten a politician.

18 PHOTOS
A day in the life of the migrant caravan in Mexico
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A day in the life of the migrant caravan in Mexico
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, takes a rest on the road, as she walks to Pijijiapan from Mapastepec, Mexico, October 25, 2018. Picture taken October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, rests on the road with her son Adonai, as they make their way to Pijijiapan from Mapastepec, Mexico, October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino/File photo SEARCH "GLENDA ESCOBAR" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, plays with her son Adonai in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, sleeps in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, poses for a photograph with her children Adonai and Denzel in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, smiles as she rests in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, poses with her son Denzel, 8, as they rest in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, rests in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, rests on the road with her son Denzel as they walk to Pijijiapan from Mapastepec, Mexico, October 25, 2018. Picture taken October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, prepares the sleeping place after arriving at a makeshift camp with her sons Adonai and Denzel, in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Denzel, 8, holds his brother Adonai, 5, near their mother Glenda Escobar, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, as they walk to Pijijiapan from Mapastepec, Mexico, October 25, 2018. Picture taken October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, prepares the sleeping place after arriving at a makeshift camp with her sons Adonai and Denzel, in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, cries after talking on the phone, in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, rests on the road, on her way to Pijijiapan from Mapastepec, Mexico, October 25, 2018. Picture taken October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, poses for a photograph as she rests in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, takes a ride in a vintage car with her children Adonai and Denzel, as they walk to Pijijiapan from Mapastepec, Mexico, October 25, 2018. Picture taken October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Adonai, 5, son of Glenda Escobar, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, smiles as he rests in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, prepares the sleeping place after arriving at a makeshift camp with her children Adonai and Denzel, in Pijijiapan, Mexico, October 25, 2018. Picture taken October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
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