Elections

‘NASCAR moms’ steer toward Donald Trump

Ashley Bowman, center, and her husband, Jerry Bowman, right, play a family game of catch Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. While Ashley Bowman’s political views are not known, many women at the track said they favor Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Ashley Bowman, center, and her husband, Jerry Bowman, right, play a family game of catch Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. While Ashley Bowman’s political views are not known, many women at the track said they favor Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Relaxing under the cool shade of a camper, long-time NASCAR fan Debbie Baker didn’t hesitate when asked who she supports in the presidential race.

“Versus Hillary? Trump – that’s a no-brainer,” she said.

Baker is among thousands of women in town for another race: Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. She’s also part of a demographic that could give presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump a boost in states such as North Carolina.

Call them NASCAR Moms.

And they’re plowing right through the gender gap.

Trump, who this week secured enough delegates for the Republican nomination, is virtually tied in national polls with likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. But Clinton enjoys a double-digit lead among women while Trump has the edge among men.

Two recent North Carolina polls showed a similar gender gap, though narrower for Clinton than Trump. Both the conservative Civitas Poll and the left-leaning Public Policy Polling survey showed Trump with a wider lead among men than Clinton had among women.

Out of everybody (Trump’s) got the best business sense, and that’s what we need right now. I don’t like Hillary at all.

Nikki Davis, who already voted for Trump once, in the Pennsylvania primary

In a poll of NASCAR fans last fall, PPP found Trump with a 9-point lead among female fans, and an even wider lead among men.

That wouldn’t surprise fans like Kathy Snow of Utah.

She calls Trump “a pragmatist and a problem solver.”

“Hillary is just a politician out for her own benefit, not for the people,” Snow, 61, said outside the NASCAR Hall of Fame in uptown Charlotte.

Nikki Davis, 41, already voted for Trump once, in the Pennsylvania primary.

“Out of everybody he’s got the best business sense, and that’s what we need right now,” said Davis, a project manager. “I don’t like Hillary at all.”

Can’t count on women

This year Clinton has put more emphasis on the historical nature of her candidacy than she did the first time she ran in 2008. So have others.

In February, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had to apologize for telling a Clinton rally that “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”

Susan Roberts, a political scientist at Davidson College, said Clinton “thought gender would go a long way in persuading all kinds of women.”

“I think Hillary Clinton is going to find herself a lot of other pockets she didn’t expect to be there … that she (thought) she could have counted on,” Roberts said.

One of those pockets was in front of a camper outside the speedway.

“We are a Trump tent,” said Heather Bird, sitting outside her camper Friday morning. Bird is from coal country in West Virginia, where Hillary Clinton has not fared well lately.

Clinton lost the West Virginia primary early in May to opponent Bernie Sanders. She still is feeling the negative effects from a comment she made during a town hall in March. Speaking on transitioning to clean energy, Clinton said: “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”

Bird said people are moving away from coal country, and Clinton is not helping residents recover from difficult economic times. She said voting for Clinton would be like voting for Obama again.

“He’s had seven years to change things and it hasn’t changed,” she said. “I truly feel Donald Trump is for America.”

I just think Trump would get us into war while he was tweeting.

Peggy Gorman, 60, of suburban Philadelphia

Vickie Kauffman came down from Harrisonburg, Va., with her friend Baker. She said while Clinton is “very Washington,” Trump is not.

“She’s almost got the air that she’s owed this,” Kauffman said.

Trump ‘scares’ some

To be sure, not all women in town for Sunday’s race are pulling for Trump.

“I just think Trump would get us into war while he was tweeting,” said Peggy Gorman, 60, of suburban Philadelphia. “The man scares me.”

Pam Kemp, a teacher from near Rochester, N.Y., said she’s not in favor of either candidate and won’t know who she’s voting for until the weeks leading up to the election.

“(Trump)’s so strong with his opinions that I’m not sure how he would be with foreign policy… That kind of scares me,” she said. “And Hillary, I think she’s so political … Is she really for the people?”

Some NASCAR fans don’t like the choices.

Kim Pajer of Augusta, Ga., doesn’t plan to vote. She said her son is about to lose Medicaid because the government says she and her husband make too much money.

“I’m a hard-working person who busts their butt all year long for pennies,” she said. “I work for the school system and am lucky to make a penny because it’s not that much.”

She called Trump “arrogant” and said she is tired of Washington politicians.

“For one year, let them live in a trailer like I live in,” she said. “Let’s see what they think – if they can live (without) their quarter-million dollars a year.”

Jim Morrill: 704-358-5059, @jimmorrill

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