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Trump is hoping women aren’t a lost cause

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Ivanka Trump, daughter of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, walks to the podium during the final day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
Ivanka Trump, daughter of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, walks to the podium during the final day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.Evan Vucci

WASHINGTON — She champions equal pay for women. Affordable child care. Revamped labor laws to make life easier for working mothers.

Hillary Clinton? No, Ivanka Trump.

The Republican nominee's daughter introduced herself to the nation in a well received prime-time convention speech by saying she does not consider herself categorically Republican or Democrat. Now Donald Trump plans to deploy the successful businesswoman and mother of three young children to swing states with a special mission: find a way to sell him to independent female voters after months of his harsh rhetoric.

"Ivanka is a great combination of message, messenger, and delivery. You will see her in the swing states speaking to women, both on her own and by his side," said Kellyanne Conway, a Republican strategist who joined Trump's campaign this month as a senior adviser and pollster.

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But even some Republicans say Ivanka Trump faces a Sisyphean task. Her father's poll numbers among women are historically bad, although one survey conducted in the days immediately after the Republican National Convention in Cleveland showed improvement. He has picked fights with female TV personalities, belittled women's appearance and weight, and made a variety of misogynist comments.

Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, captured a wave of positive news when she made history as the country's first woman to become the presidential nominee of a major political party.

Bill and Chelsea Clinton waxed at length in their Democratic National Convention speeches this week on Hillary Clinton's specific qualities as a wife, mother, and grandmother. Clinton and her running mate, Tim Kaine, embarked on a bus tour Friday of two crucial swing states, bringing a message of economic empowerment to Pennsylvania and Ohio.

"Hillary is not as popular as you would think with women, but by comparison [to Trump], she looks better and better among independent women, soft Democrats, and soft Republicans," said Katie Packer, a Republican strategist who helped manage Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign and who ran an anti-Trump super PAC during the primaries.

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A key constituency that could tip the election are white college-educated women, especially in Colorado, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, according to an analysis by William Frey, a demographer and senior fellow at The Brookings Institution.

"Gender voting will be a key factor in this year's election," Frey said. Trump's strategy so far of relying heavily on the support of white working-class men could fall apart, he said, if white college-educated women turn toward Clinton in large numbers.

Even Ivanka Trump fans who consider her Donald Trump's most appealing ambassador to millennial women doubt her ability to push them over the line and vote for him.

"I love Ivanka Trump. I follow her on Instagram. I buy her shoes. I wish it were Ivanka running rather than Donald. How could she be his daughter?" said Melissa Richmond, who attended both the Republican and Democratic conventions as vice president of Running Start, a nonpartisan organization that encourages young women to enter politics.

The 29-year-old Republican from the swing state of Virginia said Ivanka Trump's speech was the highlight of the Republican convention. But, she said, "I don't think people's adoration for her will affect their opinion of her dad."

Ivanka Trump, 34, is a strong force within her father's campaign and has urged him in the past to soften his tone, to act more presidential. She's credited with moderating his views on Planned Parenthood, shaping his vocal support for its work in women's health and not solely focusing on abortion like most conservatives. She reportedly implored him to dump former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, months after he had been charged with battery for grabbing a female reporter's arm.

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Voters can expect to see more of Ivanka Trump in a mix of television, radio, and print interviews as well as campaign ads, in addition to making more personal appearances on the campaign trail, Conway said.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton greeted members of the audience after speaking at a rally at a toy company in Hatfield, Pa., Friday.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton greeted members of the audience after speaking at a rally at a toy company in Hatfield, Pa., Friday.Andrew Harnik

Conway said she could not yet share a schedule for Ivanka Trump's future appearances or specify in which states the campaign will focus. Ivanka Trump declined a Globe interview request via her representative, citing her busy schedule.

But some voters feel Ivanka Trump should not even bother because Donald Trump's history of misogynistic statements cancels out her appeal to women. He's called pregnancy an "inconvenience for a business" and "putting a wife to work" a "very dangerous thing." And Democrats have dredged up a 1997 letter to the editor by his running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, about working mothers stunting children's emotional growth.

"I don't know if it's possible to put that genie back in the bottle," said Christine Matthews, a Republican consultant from Virginia. "It's not really fair to put the weight of the Trump campaign's outreach to women on Ivanka's shoulders."

Trump himself asserted during a North Carolina campaign rally Monday that he — and Ivanka — are "doing well with the women."

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Contrary to popular perception, recent polls give Trump some hope in making inroads with women.

A new CNN/ORC poll taken following last week's Republican National Convention shows 52 percent of registered female voters hold an unfavorable view of Trump, down from 73 percent in March. Clinton's unpopularity in that poll rivaled Trump's, with 53 percent of female voters holding an unfavorable view of her, but that could very well improve in the wake of her convention.

A Pew Survey Center poll taken in June found that 59 percent of women voters say they would support Clinton over Trump, compared with 43 percent of men.

In addition to promoting a feminist agenda in her speech, Ivanka Trump vouched during the Republican convention for her father's history of hiring and promoting women, paying them equally as men, and supporting mothers within his company.

She said as president, Donald Trump would "change the labor laws" and "focus on making quality child care affordable and accessible for all."

"He will fight for equal pay for equal work, and I will fight for this, too, right alongside of him," she said.

At a Democratic National Convention event in Philadelphia this week, Chelsea Clinton (who has maintained a friendship with Ivanka Trump in New York) directly questioned Ivanka Trump's claims.

"How would your father do that?" Clinton said during a Facebook Live discussion with Glamour magazine. "Given it's not something he's spoken about. There are no policies on any of those fronts that you just mentioned on his website. Not last week, not this week."

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Her mother, on the other hand, has made the issues central to her campaign.

The Republican Party platform, passed just days earlier, makes no mention of gender equality when it comes to pay or other women's rights. In fact, the GOP platform officially opposes the UN Convention on Women's Rights, along with abortion.

Conway, who had previously headed a Ted Cruz super PAC before joining Trump's campaign, said Ivanka Trump's message resonates with a wide swath of working mothers. "She gave voice and visibility to one of the most gnawing challenges to American families," Conway said. Conway said Trump will at a later date announce specific policies related to the ideas his daughter has proposed. "That wasn't her role," she said. "This will be a priority. She elevated it at his convention as a preview of the solutions and specifics that will be front and center in his administration."


Tracy Jan can be reached at tracy.jan
@globe.com
and on Twitter @TracyJan.