TAMPA, Fla. (CN) – Yard signs supporting President Donald Trump dot Linda Constant’s yard in the historic Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa, Florida. Constant’s liberal friends tell her someone will end up taking those signs in this mostly Democratic city, but the 71-year-old remains steadfast. She supported Trump in 2016 and she’s ready to again in 2020.
“He’s like me,” said Constant, who hails from Massachusetts. “I shoot straight from the hip and tell it like it is, because I’m honest. Just like him.”
That’s why Constant and a couple hundred other women gathered at the Tampa Convention Center on Thursday evening, pledging to reelect the presumptive Republican nominee in 2020, even as polls show his approval ratings plummeting among this key constituent group.
Billed as a celebration of 99 years of women’s suffrage, the “Evening to Empower” event featured former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, who traded quips and campaign stories, but did not touch on gender-specific topics.
“There’s no such thing as ‘women’s issues,'” Conway told the crowd. “I’ve been doing this for over 30 years … and not once have I heard about ‘men’s issues.'”
“I’m sick and tired of hearing about ‘women’s issues’ when it’s just a euphemism for abortion,” she continued. “All issues are women’s issues.”
The Tampa gathering was one of 14 events held across the country on Thursday to mobilize women in key battleground states. From Iowa to North Carolina, the “Women for Trump” rallies featured high-level campaign staffers and Trump surrogates, including former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and former “Apprentice” contestant Tana Goertz.
“Thanks to President Trump’s leadership, female unemployment sits at a historic and generational low, nearly 600,000 women have been lifted from poverty, communities are safer, and the administration’s efforts are ensuring that we have sensible health care policies for our families,” said Kayleigh McEnany, the Trump campaign’s national press secretary, in a statement hours before her own event in Marietta, Georgia.
Casey DeSantis, wife of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, was also slated to speak at the Tampa event, but did not appear due to the scheduled execution of a death row inmate.
Conway, who acts as counselor to the president, began by announcing she was at the event in a “personal capacity,” a nod to past accusations by a federal oversight agency and a U.S. House Committee that she violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal workers from engaging in political activities.
Much like a fireside chat, Bondi and Conway sat in chairs, slightly facing each other, on a small stage set up in an intimate convention room while Bondi peppered Conway with questions about the 2020 presidential election.
“Which of the Democrats would you like to face Trump?” Bondi asked.
“They are obsessed with Trump or not Trump,” Conway said. “A binary choice. You want a binary choice? How about freedom or socialism?”
Trump also made an appearance, albeit via a phone call piped through the room’s speakers.
“I love Tampa, I love all of you,” he said to raucous applause. “We won with women. We’re doing great with women, despite the fake news.”
Republicans’ push to attract women is especially important for Trump’s reelection campaign. Poll after poll shows a vast gender gap in support for the president.
A Quinnipiac University poll from late July showed less than a third of women voters would “definitely” vote for Trump. An August survey from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal found 62 percent of female registered voters would vote for the Democratic candidate over Trump.
For the president’s critics, his reelection campaign slogan – “Promises made. Promises kept.” – rings hollow for women voters.
“He was going to go in and be for equal rights and what has he done for equal rights?” said Patricia Farley, president of the Democratic Women’s Club of Florida. “What has he done for women? What has he done for equal pay? What has he done for their medical bills?”
Farley, 67, said Trump’s immigration policies have incensed women voters like her.
“I can’t see how anybody could vote for him, especially the second time around, after he let those little children stay in cages,” she said by phone before the event.
Farley said her Republican neighbors are “ashamed” to admit their political affiliation.
“They will say, ‘I didn’t vote for him,’ when you know they did,” she said.
But for Trump supporters like Kirsten Moore, Republican women should not only admit their support in 2020, but flaunt it.
“We want to show people – don’t be scared of what people may say to you,” said Moore, 44, who heads up a Republican women’s group in a nearby county.
“We’ll be out waving signs next week.”