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Politics In The News: Female Voters And The 2016 Election


New York holds its presidential primaries tomorrow. This is a state that three of the candidates, at some point, have called home. Donald Trump was born in Queens and lives and works in Manhattan. Bernie Sanders is a Brooklyn native. And Hillary Clinton is a former New York senator. We're joined, as we are most Mondays, by commentator Cokie Roberts. Cokie, good morning.


GREENE: Good morning to you. You know, Donald Trump has been celebrating those, quote, "New York values." And, I mean, it seems so far to be working in his race against a couple of non-New Yorkers, John Kasich and Ted Cruz, right?

ROBERTS: Yeah. The front-runners going into tomorrow's big New York primary still seem to be running ahead in all of the polls. And Trump has been really ignoring his Republican opponents over the weekend and going on the road against the party rules. Now, Ted Cruz did spend the weekend piling up delegates, however, in places like Georgia and Wyoming. Trump has been sending the party into another swivet, this time over the rules, saying he doesn't want to play the games of wooing delegates, even though he has, quote, "better toys that anyone else." But, you know, going after the system puts him back - right back in his sweet spot of taking on the establishment. And he's also going after the person he's called all weekend crooked - Hillary Clinton. And she's having - she's still running ahead but having a big challenge from Bernie Sanders, who had more than 28,000 people show up in Prospect Park in Brooklyn last night. And he's been going after her big time, still really hanging in there despite the fact that she's well ahead in the delegates.

GREENE: Hanging in there - I mean, she's ahead of the delegates but probably never expected to be in a fight for the nomination this late, you know, having to fight in the state of New York. I mean, look broadly at the race right now. What is happening?

ROBERTS: Well, what's happening is that voters do not trust her on honesty and trustworthiness. And Bernie Sanders is appealing to a huge swath of the Democratic Party, especially young people. But it's also true that her historic attempt to be the first woman president is not necessarily falling on receptive ears, particularly among young women.

GREENE: Well, let me bring in another voice here if you stay with us, Cokie. William Frey of the Brookings Institution is a demographer, and he's in the studio with me. Bill, good morning.

WILLIAM FREY: Good morning.

GREENE: Let me ask you about what Cokie was just talking about there. I mean, she - Hillary Clinton, poised to possibly become the first female president this country has seen. But I mean, there's this notion that she is not attracting widespread support among female voters. Is that what the research shows?

FREY: Well, you know, the Democrats have been able to count on female voters to win. I mean, Barack Obama could say perhaps that he won because of the support of female voters.

ROBERTS: And Bill Clinton.

FREY: (Laughter) Yeah, I mean, going back - and - but the thing to think about is there's a big gap between nonmarried and married women voters. It's the nonmarried folks, women, who have been voting Democratic, especially minorities.

Some people forget that close to 38 percent of the electorate of nonmarried women are racial minorities, who are very strongly voting Democratic - 96 percent of black women voted for Obama last time.

But I think where - you know, people sort of hone in on the fact that these white, you know, college-educated women who also vote Democratic and are out very strongly for Bernie Sanders right now. That's a key group of these unmarried women that is Hillary going to want to have when it comes to November.

And, you know, I think a lot of people's guesses that they'll shift to her if the other candidate is Donald Trump, who's going to have a not really big support among women, even some of the traditional women who would vote Republican in elections because of the some of the things he's said.

But that's still a bet - you know, are these younger nonmarried women - white women - going to come in the same degree that they might have come out in earlier elections? And, you know, I think that's a bet that Clinton is making.

GREENE: I wonder if I could get both of you to respond to some tape. I mean, we've been speaking to voters obviously around the country and will continue to do that. Here's just one voice from a voter in Orlando, Fla. Her name's Star Maynard (ph). She's 44 years old. She voted for Mitt Romney in 2012.

Right now she says she's supporting Donald Trump. But I Bill, mean, Bill, you brought this up. I mean, she's said that his comments about women have been, quote, "harsh." And here's what she said about Hillary Clinton.


STAR MAYNARD: I'm torn because I don't like the fact that she's lied, and she has that stupid email thing going on. If she clears that up and straightens up her views, keep going flip-flop, then maybe I might consider thinking of her.

GREENE: Cokie, what do you make of that?

ROBERTS: Well, that is a voter that really hasn't figured out what she wants to do. And Florida, of course, is a swing state, so it makes a difference.

But I think that one of the questions going forward is whether this business of Hillary Clinton's trustworthiness is able to be cleared up. And I think that's very unlikely, frankly. But I - but whether voters turn to her anyway. The negativities on all of these candidates are pretty high.

But does Hillary Clinton find a way to inspire women with the fact of her historic possible first? And that is a question we really have not seen her able to do with younger women in the primary season.

GREENE: Although she doesn't talk about it that much. I mean, is it - if she's going to potentially inspire women, should Hillary Clinton, Bill Frey, be talking about the fact of her historic candidacy more?

FREY: You know, I think that would certainly make sense. And, you know, a lot of the things that she's been talking about do apply to these non-married white women. A lot of them are mothers.

A lot of them have to worry about being home and have paid leave and that sort of thing. She talks about all of that, and she can bring that up I think in a bigger way when we get to November.

GREENE: Cokie...

ROBERTS: And of course, a lot...

GREENE: Go ahead.

ROBERTS: ...Of non-married white women are widows. We're talking about older women. And in that - with that group, the fact of her history-making prospect is likely to be stronger.

GREENE: What is the calculation, Cokie Roberts, when Hillary Clinton thinks about whether or not to bring that up the first thing she says at a campaign speech?

ROBERTS: I think she's - in she barely 2008, she barely brought it up at all because she felt the need to be tough as the first serious female candidate. This time around, I think she is bringing it up more and more and more, and she's particularly bringing it up in small groups of women. But she is - she's emphasizing it much more than she did before. And I think going forward, we're going to see more talk about maybe Charlotte and new baby to come from Chelsea Clinton.

GREENE: All right, William Frey is a demographer at the Brookings Institution joining us in the studio. Bill, thanks for coming in.

FREY: Sure.

GREENE: And Cokie Roberts, who joins us - our commentator - most Monday mornings. Cokie, have a good week.

ROBERTS: You, too. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.