After a week of controversy over his battle with Fox News debate moderator Megyn Kelly, Donald Trump now says he would consider a woman as his running mate if he manages to win the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.
“Certainly, I would consider a woman as a running mate,” the high-flying Trump told Michael Sneed of CBS-Chicago on Wednesday. “I am all for the concept. It would have to be the right person and I’m not going to go into who that would be right now. But I have great respect for women. I have great respect for women who are executives in my company. I have great respect for women’s judgment.”
Republicans have long had trouble attracting women, Hispanics and other minorities to support their national tickets, and Trump may have just pushed that problem to new heights with his combative – and even menacing – comments to Kelly during the two-hour Republican debate on Fox News last week.
A new poll of Iowa caucus-goers strongly suggests Trump is running up against a gender gap. Trump tops the field of Republican candidates with 22 percent of the vote – a 15-point lead over his nearest rival, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, according to a CNN/ORC poll. However, Trump trails in the poll among women.
Some 20 percent of women surveyed back former Johns Hopkins neuro-surgeon Ben Carson, while only 15 percent back Trump and 11 percent support former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who many feel performed best of all during a debate for the second tier of GOP candidates.
So who might Trump pick as a female running mate if he turns out to be the GOP’s standard-bearer? He would have a strong field of female Republican candidates to choose from, including:
n South Carolina Gov. Nikki R. Haley, an Indian-American, demonstrated real star power earlier this year when she led her state through the tragedy of a mass shooting at an historic black church in Charleston and then led the way in removing a Confederate Battle Flag from the grounds of the state capital.
- New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a highly popular Republican who had no trouble winning election in 2014, is frequently mentioned for a spot on a national ticket. She would provide broad appeal to both women and Hispanics.
- New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte is a fast rising star in Washington who has taken a leading role in the debate over defense and national security.
- Freshman Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst also has generated a buzz in Washington after delivering this year’s Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address. Ernst, an Iraq combat veteran, has already become a force in Iowa state politics and organized a major event for GOP presidential candidates.
- Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, an African-American who would be a match for Clinton’s foreign policy expertise, occasionally has been mentioned as a possible GOP candidate. However, she has shown little interest in national politics since leaving the administration of President George W. Bush, and – if she were to run -- she would have to answer for many of Bush’s more controversial policies in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This list leaves out the obvious choice of Fiorina. Before it’s all over, Trump may regret his snarky comments about the sole female GOP candidate, who was forced out of Hewlett-Packard in 2005 and lost a race in California for the U.S. Senate in 2010.
Trump tweeted after the debate, “I just realized that if you listen to Carly Fiorina for more than ten minutes straight, you develop a massive headache. She has zero chance!” Earlier this year, the Donald had some other unkind words for Fiorina: “I think she’s a very nice woman. But she got fired. And, she lost in a landslide. Does that qualify you to run for president?”
Having a woman on the 2016 ticket might not be a bad idea for the Republicans, especially if former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton manages to lock down the Democratic presidential nomination despite her current shaky performance. In 2012, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney lost women voters to President Obama by an 11-point margin, according to exit polling. Women made up 53 percent of the presidential electorate that year.
Years ago, when Trump considered running for president as a Reform Party candidate in 1999, he mused that it might be interesting to run with Oprah Winfrey, the television, movie and publishing powerhouse. During an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News shortly after announcing his candidacy this spring, Trump didn’t dismiss out of hand the idea of running with Winfrey.
“I think Oprah would be great. I’d love to have Oprah,” he said, sitting with Stephanopoulos at his high-rise. “I think we’d win easily, actually.”