CHARLOTTE, North Carolina—They’re young, they’re old, blond and brunette. They’re rich and poor and everything in between. But the women at Donald Trump’s rallies have one defining trait in common, other than being overwhelmingly white. They can’t quit, won’t quit, the Donald.
More than a week after Trump was caught on a decade-old tape bragging to Billy Bush that he groped women, and days into a drumbeat of accusers coming forward to say the billionaire had grabbed, touched, harassed, and assaulted them, a dedicated group of female supporters say they’re sticking with Trump no matter what.
“I’d be honored if Donald Trump would touch me inappropriately! I sure would! Do it again!” Trina Hudson laughed as she walked out of Trump’s Friday night rally in Charlotte, the second one she’s been to so far.
Hudson was wearing a T-shirt she had gotten at her first Trump rally in Greensboro (“Finally, a candidate with balls!”) and said that neither the accusations against Trump nor his response to them would change her mind. “It. Does. Not. Matter,” she said. “I would still vote for him.”
Hudson had come to Charlotte with a friend from Gastonia, where she is a manager at a manufacturing company. What does she like about Trump?
“Everything,” Hudson said. “I think he’d be good for this country. I like his morals and his judgment. He’ll get ISIS out of here and Hillary’s just going to bring more over.”
Hours before the event in Charlotte, Trump had been in Greensboro, where he laughed off one of the accusers who he suggested wasn’t even attractive enough to assault.
“Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you,” he said to the roar of the crowd.
Another woman whose looks he could do without? Hillary Clinton.
“When she walked in front of me at my podium, believe me, I wasn’t impressed,” he said, as he described his view at their second presidential debate.
Altogether, Trump said the parade of women who have come forward to accuse him were doing it “probably for a little bit of fame,” dismissing their multiple, varying accounts as “fiction.”
It’s exactly that kind of attack on his accusers, Clinton, and women in general that is destroying Trump’s chances among female voters. While Mitt Romney lost women to President Obama by 11 points, a series of polls in October show Clinton opening up an almost insurmountable lead among female voters, between 15 and 33 percentage points.
But even as most women declare Trump and his White House aspirations dead to them, another group, numbering in the tens of millions, is steadfastly refusing to leave his side.
At Trump’s Charlotte rally, Susan Brewer and her daughter carried matching “Women for Trump” signs, pink placards the Trump campaign offered to females on their way in.
Brewer spoke quietly, her face framed by soft, white curls, as she listed the reasons she’ll vote for him in November.
“I believe he’s truly a patriot,” she said of Trump. She liked his focus on defeating ISIS and helping veterans and said she didn’t believe the latest stories about Trump and women.
“I think it’s part of the big lies of Hillary,” she said. “Of course I don’t think he’s a saint.”
Brewer’s daughter, Meg Prokopenko, moved to the Charlotte area two years ago for her husband’s job as a software developer. She said she also liked Trump’s focus on ISIS and “protecting our country,” and added, “The big thing is the threat of Hillary.”
When I asked Prokopenko about the accusations against Trump about assaulting women, she, like every woman I spoke with, said they won’t change her vote.
“Obviously it doesn’t make his character look great,” she said. “But if you look at Bill and Hillary paying hundreds of thousands to cover up a rape that Bill did, I don’t see her as being a champion for women’s rights.”
Standing outside of the convention center where the rally let out, two sisters originally from Canada were wearing “Canadian Deplorables for Trump” T-shirts that they had designed themselves. One sister, Pam Byrd, lives in nearby Albemarle. The other, Tina Stevens, lives in Canada, but holds U.S. citizenship. Both women are professional, college-educated, and say they’re pro-Trump whether or not he’s a dog with women.
“Hillary is corrupt,” said Byrd. “In anything she’s ever done, she’s just selling us out.” She is frustrated that the press hasn’t covered WikiLeaks with the same ferocity as Trump’s lady problems, but said she’s supporting Trump even so.
“He may be disgusting and maybe he’s done the things that they said he’s done,” she said. “But he’s still got common sense and he’s saying smart things.”
Her sister also stopped short of defending Trump from the women accusing him, but said the issues in the election matter more.
“I don’t think it’s a personality contest,” Stevens said. “In my job, I’ve had to work with people I didn’t like. But they did a really, really good job. And that’s what I see as far as Trump goes.”
The sisters agreed that immigration in America is “a mess” and said they trust Trump far more than Clinton to solve the problems in the country. They’re in the minority of women who will support Trump, but among the majority who don’t trust Hillary Clinton, so much so that Byrd said she is already doubting the results of the election if Trump loses.
“You just don’t know. Maybe the election’s rigged,” she said. “Look what happened to Bernie Sanders.”