Francine Kiefer/The Christian Science Monitor
Angela Hawkins (l.), who has been to six Donald Trump rallies, and Gloria Salim-Brown, also a Trump supporter, look at Trump merchandise after their monthly luncheon at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary, N.C., a suburb of Raleigh.

Among these GOP women, no hint of #NeverTrump

Despite Trump’s weakness among women nationally, some GOP women are enthusiastic backers and will be crucial to spreading his message and turning out voters in swing states, like North Carolina.

To walk through the doors of the Prestonwood Country Club is to meet some of Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters in the battleground state of North Carolina. Nearly 70 Republican women and their guests confab over amber iced tea at their monthly luncheon in this affluent suburb of Raleigh.

They are moms and business people. They are in the ministry and in the state legislature. They are the Republican Women of Cary and Southwestern Wake, and they are among the ground troops that Mr. Trump – and Republicans up and down the ballot – will need to get out the vote.

National polls show Trump’s weakness among women voters, especially educated ones in urban and suburban areas. He trails Hillary Clinton in female support 38 percent to 53 percent, according to the latest CNN/ORC poll.

But the women dining in this private club are in a different category – the core of the GOP core. Even before Trump’s recent makeover of his campaign team and his attempts to round out his image, they were with him, though some of them went on a political journey to get to that point.

“One nation under Trump,” laughed the group’s president, Kathy Dusto, before the September luncheon got under way. She explained that the members, who number just over 100, had decided at their monthly luncheon in early August to back the entire slate of GOP candidates. It was a pro forma thing. Of course they would.

Push to turn out voters

Ms. Dusto says there’s strong interest among her group to help register and turn out voters. For the GOP, that’s a must in a state where Trump and Mrs. Clinton are essentially tied, where the US Senate candidates are also in a statistical dead heat, and where the Democrat challenger appears to be pulling ahead of the incumbent Republican governor.

The Republican National Committee is sending more than 100 new field operatives to North Carolina, according to The News & Observer in Raleigh. The newspaper also quoted a memo from GOP strategist Paul Shumaker, which said that 20 percent of Republicans in the Tar Heel state view Trump unfavorably. If many of those voters stay home, that could cost all GOP candidates three to six percentage points, according to the memo.

It’s impossible to know how persuasive the women gathered in this chandeliered dining room might be with undecided voters. But they are convinced that Trump is the best candidate.

For Angela Hawkins, Trump’s appeal is his authenticity.

“He believes in the word. He believes what he says. I’m not sure she does,” says this mom, comparing Trump to Clinton. “Why would people vote for someone who’s dishonest?” Indeed, the honesty question was often the first point mentioned by the women interviewed about Trump at the buffet luncheon.

A Trump supporter from the start, Ms. Hawkins has been to six of his rallies, which she calls “almost a surreal experience” full of passion and zest. You don’t see that with Clinton, she comments.

Like others in this room overlooking a 54-hole, championship golf complex, Hawkins is with Trump on the issues. On immigration, she asks: “Why are we not enforcing our laws?” With Trump’s business acumen, she reasons, he’ll put people back to work. She also praises him for employing people from “all races and all religions.”

Hawkins is not shy about engaging Facebook friends over Trump, and says she knows “closet” Trump supporters. They won’t put signs on their lawns, but they tell her they’ll vote for him.

Warming to Trump

After the luncheon, Hawkins checked out the Trump merchandise table to see what she might add to her Trump pin and Trump purse. Standing beside her, another member of the GOP women’s group, Gloria Salim-Brown, also speaks enthusiastically about Trump – though he wasn’t her first choice.

That was neurosurgeon Ben Carson. But when Trump listed his potential Supreme Court nominees in May, Ms. Salim-Brown came on board. Preventing Democratic appointments to the court is her top priority.

Meanwhile, she described Trump as “very presidential” when he visited the Mexican president last week and said his much-anticipated speech on immigration was “common sense.”

Annelle Costineau also did not start out as a Trump fan. She was with Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. It was the GOP convention that won her over – hearing all those testimonials from Trump’s family.

She, too, comes from a blended family, and she was impressed by how “intelligent and articulate” the Trump children were.

“Contrary to popular belief, this is a man who has promoted women to the very highest positions,” Ms. Costineau adds. “Is he a showman? Sure! But that man is a success.”

Family is also a big issue for realtor Judy Edwards, who volunteered that she’s a Christian.

“As a female, I do not understand women who support Hillary Clinton,” says Ms. Edwards. How could the former first lady stay with her philandering husband? On the other hand, she praised Trump’s well-spoken wives and children, as well as the candidate for neither smoking nor drinking. “I have no reservations.”

Many blamed a liberal media for blowing their candidate’s controversial remarks out of proportion. But one Trump backer, Cathy Fanslau, says she would like him to act more presidential.

“Sometimes he speaks before he thinks,” says Ms. Fanslau, an ordained minister. “If he can keep his mouth shut, I think he brings gifts.” 

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