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Fed up with Trump, Republican women campaign for Clinton

Meghan Milloy is one of thousands of Republican women deserting the party for this election over what they see as its misogynist candidate.
Meghan Milloy (right) with Jennifer Lim, founders of Republican Women for Hillary, pose in an Oval Office mockup at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Courtesy Meghan Milloy
Meghan Milloy (right) with Jennifer Lim, founders of Republican Women for Hillary, pose in an Oval Office mockup at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Courtesy Meghan Milloy
New York // Meghan Milloy has known where she stood on America's political spectrum ever since high school in Mississippi, when she founded the Teenage Republicans Club. Since then she has campaigned for George W Bush, interned in his White House and now works for a Republican-leaning policy group in Washington DC.

"I've never voted Democrat in my life," she told The National. But that is about to change.

The 29-year-old describes herself as a traditional Republican, which is why she feels compelled to campaign for Hillary Clinton rather than Donald Trump, a man whose hate-filled campaign she says is pushing her party towards destruction.

"Initially it was difficult because so many Republicans are ingrained with [the] idea that the Clintons are inherently bad and represent everything that we are against," she said.

"But Donald Trump continues to make the task easier."

Ms Milloy is one of thousands of Republican women deserting the party for this election over what they see as its misogynist candidate.

She is a founder member of Republican Women for Hillary, campaigning to persuade other conservatives that Mrs Clinton offers better leadership and more moderate policies than the bombastic billionaire.

They have set up chapters in a dozen battlegrounds - including the swing states of Ohio and Florida as well as the Republican stronghold of Texas - staffed phone banks, appeared on TV and gone door-to-door to drum up support for a woman they once saw as their opponent.

In this topsy turvy election year, they are among a slew of "Never Trump" Republican groups backing Mrs Clinton out of despair at the way Mr Trump has taken control of a party once led by Abraham Lincoln.

For Ms Milloy, the warning signs came when the property mogul launched his campaign last year by describing Mexicans as rapists, before launching a bitter broadside at the Fox News journalist Megyn Kelly - making a crude reference to menstruation - after a TV debate.

The final straw came in May as party leaders began to endorse Mr Trump, despite his clumsy rhetoric of division.

It was then that an evening with six or seven like-minded friends at the St Regis Hotel in Washington became a call to action.

"That's when we said we would do something and not just sit around and complain," she said.

For her, the election of the first female president would be "cool". But the real motivating factor is to stop a candidate accused of using degrading language towards women and minorities taking power and implementing dangerous policies.

Their campaign is just the latest symptom of a party struggling to attract women. It is not a new problem.

After defeat in 2012, officials published a post-mortem report that said without becoming more inclusive the party would struggle to win elections.

"The Republican National Committee must improve its efforts to include female voters and promote women to leadership ranks within the committee," it concluded. "Additionally, when developing our party's message, women need to be part of this process to represent some of the unique concerns that female voters may have."

It also highlighted the need to increase support among Hispanic and African-American voters as the country's demographics changed.

Instead, the party picked Mr Trump as its candidate, undermining any chance of broadening Republican support.

His bombastic delivery and hard-Right rhetoric were blamed for turning off female voters in record numbers. The problem was compounded last month, when an 11-year-old recording emerged of Mr Trump bragging about groping women.

Since then, a dozen women have come forward with allegations that he made unwanted sexual advances or worse - accusations that Mr Trump has denied.

During the third presidential debate, Mr Trump described his opponent as a "nasty woman", a slur which has since become a badge of honour for his female critics.

The result has been to turn the Republicans' problem with women into a crisis.

In a New York Times/CBS poll published on Thursday, Mrs Clinton led Mr Trump among women by 14 percentage points.

Rick Wilson, a Republican strategist who has launched a breakaway effort to defeat Mr Trump with Evan McMullin, an independent conservative standing in 11 states, said Mr Trump had ignored all the lessons of the 2012 election report.

"Everything he has done is to drive a wedge between Republicans and millennials, minorities, women, educated voters, suburban voters," Mr Wilson said. "There's a guy who is demographic poison."

Ms Milloy said she remained a loyal member of the Republican party and hoped her group - and others - would shift its focus to reform from the inside after the election.

"After November 8 you'll see these 'Never Trump' and pro-Hillary groups continue the work and push the party a little towards the centre," she said.

Attracting more women meant shaping policy as well as changing the profile of party leaders, she added.

"We continue to be the party of middle-aged white men. If we are to win elections, nominating a candidate that is not Donald Trump - who has been so nasty towards so many women throughout his career - would be a start."

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US election coverage from The National's foreign correspondents

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foreign.desk@thenational.ae

Updated: November 3, 2016 04:00 AM

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