WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump's storied grip on the white working class is weakening among women, threatening both his reelection prospects and his party's efforts to improve its standing with female voters.
While working-class men remain among Trump's most loyal backers, defections among their wives, sisters and daughters are a big part of the president's recent slide in opinion polls. That gives Democrat Joe Biden a shot at winning a swath of female voters that have long favored the GOP.
White working-class women heavily favored Trump in 2016. But recent polls show they are being driven away by his combative style, his erratic handling of the coronavirus crisis and his effort to quickly reopen the economy despite health risks.
"These women will be a real battleground," said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who is working with the Biden campaign. "These women are also cross-pressured, because they are surrounded by Trump-supporting men in their lives."
Four years ago, Trump won among white women of the working class -- which pollsters typically define as people without a college degree -- by a 27 percentage-point margin over the white woman at the head of the Democrats' ticket, Hillary Clinton, according to exit polls. His edge over Biden in that group, however, was just 6 points in a Washington Post/ABC News poll in late May.
If those numbers hold, Brookings Institution scholar William Galston calculated it could cut 2 percentage points from Trump's popular vote total and likely sink his reelection hopes.
"It took a near-miracle for him to win the Electoral College with only 46% of the popular vote in 2016," said Galston, who has advised six Democratic presidential campaigns. "With 44% of the vote, it would not be possible."
Surveys in some battleground states have found Biden not just slashing Trump's lead among working-class white women but overtaking him. In Wisconsin, where Trump beat Clinton among white women without college degrees by a 16-point margin, Marquette University Law School polling has found the president trailing Biden in eight of the nine polls conducted since August 2019.
The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee have launched a major effort to recapture the support of women who were with him in 2016 but did not show up for Republican candidates in the 2018 midterm elections. "They are called 'downshifters,'" RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said in an interview with The 19th, an online women's news outlet. "They were with us, they lapsed and they are easier to get back."
The goal is to hold on to women like Connie Logerfo, an 83-year-old retired baker in New York who is supporting Trump even though she is unhappy with his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, including his refusal to wear a face mask to halt the spread of the virus.