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GOP candidate hits on student asking how he plans to win women voters

Offering to get drinks with college students isn’t how the GOP should broaden its appeal to women.

By Eric Boehlert - February 12, 2018
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Missouri GOP Senate candidate Austin Petersen

Running for re-election in a state Trump won by 19 points was supposed to mean certain political doom for Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO). But it seems with each passing week, one of the Republican men who wants to challenge her in November steps on a rake when talking about women.

The latest is GOP candidate Austin Petersen. At an event hosted by the Vanderbilt College Republicans, one student asked Petersen whether he has “a plan to address or remedy the current trend of women moving to the Democratic Party.”

Petersen complimented the student for her question, said he doesn’t know how to answer it because he’s “not a sociologist” and he can’t “get inside the mind of a woman” — and then he asked her out for drinks.

“It’s definitely something we should, you know, have over a cocktail or something some time,” he said, “and try to discuss and I’m sure we’ll offend the absolute living hell out of one another but that’s how we come to new realizations and things like that. So I actually don’t know the answer to your question.”

Awkward and offensive, no doubt. Inviting a female college student to have drinks is not how GOP candidates can more broadly appeal to women, especially when the leader of the Republican Party is publicly defending a former White House staffer accused of wife beating his ex-wives.

But Petersen’s embarrassing misstep actually pales in comparison to the jaw-dropping headlines two other Republican male candidates targeting McCaskill have made this year in Missouri.

On the weekend of the second Women’s March on Washington, D.C., Courtland Sykes, a Trump acolyte from Missouri, posted a widely offensive screed on Facebook about where women belong in society.

Sykes wrote that he doesn’t “buy into radical feminism’s crazed definition of modern womanhood” and claimed feminists “made it up to suit their own nasty, snake-filled heads.”

Instead, Sykes expects home-cooked dinners and assumes if he has daughters one day, they will do the same one day since women serving meals to mean has “become traditional homemakers and family wives — think Norman Rockwell here and Gloria Steinem be damned.”

More recently, the Trump-endorsed candidate in Missouri’s GOP field, Josh Hawley who serves as the state’s attorney general, stunned observers when he announced that the liberal, sexual revolution of the 1960s is to blame for the problem of sex trafficking today.

“We’re living now with the terrible aftereffects of this so-called revolution,” said Hawley, while addressing a religious gathering. “We have a human-trafficking crisis in our state and in this city and in our country because people are willing to purchase women, young women, and treat them like commodities. There is a market for it. Why is there? Because our culture has completely lost its way. The sexual revolution has led to exploitation of women on a scale that we would never have imagined.”

The Republican Party seems to becoming unglued in Missouri.

Not only did the GOP recently suffer a stunning special election defeat there, but the Show Me state’s new GOP governor, Eric Greitens, was recently accused of tying up his mistress and blackmailing her with revenge porn.

Meanwhile, there’s now a long history of Republican men in Missouri dooming their own campaigns against McCaskill by making bizarre comments about women and sex.

Six years ago, her Republican opponent, Todd Akin, decisively blew up his own campaign with his remark that rape exceptions aren’t needed for abortion because “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Missouri Republican men just don’t know how to talk about women.


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