Ivanka Trump is reportedly set to spearhead the White House campaign among suburban voters in coming weeks, as strategists fear her father’s hardline policies and rhetoric – so beloved by his base – are turning off educated and female voters whose support will be vital to keeping control of the House of Representatives.
Many believe this week’s special election in Ohio, where a Democrat has come to within half-a-point of winning a solidly red seat Republicans have held since 1980, shows while Mr Trump’s support among his base remains solid, suburban voters, some of whom may have voted for him in 2016, are rethinking their support.
The Washington Post said as a result, Mr Trump will campaign heavily in states such as West Virginia, which he won solidly in 2016, and swing states like Ohio. But his eldest daughter, a senior White House advisor, will travel to suburban districts and talk about the strong economy and her own efforts to help the workforce.
“Ivanka Trump is trotted out when this administration wants to sound moderate. Few anti-Trump voters will be fooled,” Larry Sabato, Professor of politics at the University of Virginia, told The Independent.
“Poll after poll has shown Trump is poison with female college educated voters. It’s been obvious for quite some time.”
The decision to make use of the 36-year-old Ms Trump, who this week spoke at a community college in Indiana, comes as Republican strategists try and confront a pressing dilemma ahead of November’s midterms.
While the president’s approval rating among Republicans remains high – a Reuters/Ipsos poll published this week suggested he retains an approval rating of 86 per cent – his support has plunged among certain crucial constituencies, especially women.
A recent Marist poll found only 30 per cent of women approved of the president. It found that around sixty per cent of suburban women strongly disapproved of him and, as a result, the Democrats had a 30-point advantage with this demographic.
Even most white women, a group that Mr Trump won two years ago, said they were more likely to vote Democratic rather than Republican.
The most recent example of the impact Mr Trump’s hardline rhetoric, and of policies such as the separation of families at the US-Mexico border, came this week in Ohio’s 12 congressional district, where the race between Democrat Danny O’Connor and Republican Troy Balderson, is still too close to call, with Mr O’Connor on 49.3 per cent and Mr Balderson on 50.1 per cent.
While Mr Balderson has claimed victory, the race should never have been close. The seat has been held by Republicans for more than three decades – for 20 years it was occupied by Ohio’s current governor John Kasich – and the outgoing congressman, Pat Tiberi had been reelected to the seat in 2016 by 37 percentage points. Mr Trump took the area by 11 points that same year.
“We’re not stopping now. Tomorrow, we rest and then we keep fighting through to November. Let’s go out there, let’s get it,” Mr O’Connor, who is obliged to face off against Mr Balderson again in November regardless of Tuesday’s outcome, told supporters on Tuesday night.
“Last night proved Democrats can close the gap anywhere, even in the reddest districts,” said Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. “If we’re keeping it this close in this district now, it’s a good sign for our chances across the country this November.”
The Post pointed out that Mr Trump does not believe he is toxic to certain voters.
“As long as I campaign and/or support Senate and House candidates (within reason), they will win,” he recently tweeted.
Having endorsed a number of hardline Republican candidates in primaries who then went on to win, he believes his backing carries real power among Republicans, something that is almost certainly true where his base is concerned.
But experts say Mr Trump is likely to turn off voters in some districts and that he may not be universally welcomed on the campaign trail by Republicans.
Stuart Stevens, a veteran Republican strategist who spearheaded Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign against Barack Obama, told the newspaper: “Nothing bodes well. You look at the amount of money spent on the Republican side in Ohio, the focus put on it and you have an early warning sign. It’s time for Republicans to counteract.”
The Democrats need to flip just 23 seats to retake control of the house, the lower chamber of congress and the place where any impeachment effort against the president would start.
Most analysts believe the Democrats are now more likely to take the house than Republicans are to hold it, something that should be of intense concern to Mr Trump. At this point, Republicans are expected to keep control of the Senate, or upper chamber.
The New York Times said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was voicing in public what many Republicans believe privately, when he said: “There’s a real likelihood that [the Democrats] not only win the house, but they win it by 10 or 12 more seats than they need.”