In April, for example, she attacked a group of health care workers in Colorado who had counterprotested against people calling for an end to stay-at-home orders, suggesting they were “actors playing parts.” She then urged those opposed to local shutdowns to dress like health care workers as they protested. (Ms. Ward declined an interview request for this article.)
On his Twitter feed, Mr. Trump has made haphazard attempts at appeals to moderate Republican and independent women with messages about how his administration is saving the “Suburban Lifestyle Dream.”
But to the extent that Ms. Ward and Mr. Trump’s campaign have tried to make inroads with such voters, it has seemed to be less of a pro-Trump message and more of an anti-Biden one, said Paul Bentz, a Republican strategist in Arizona. “Instead of trying to bring those audiences to them in a positive sense, they’re trying to scare them away from Democrats,” he said.
Mr. Bentz pointed to a recent Trump campaign ad that features an older white woman scared for her life in “Joe Biden’s America,” dialing 911 during a home invasion, only for no one to answer. In a recent focus group, a mix of Trump, Biden and undecided voters in Arizona condemned the ad, with one female Trump supporter calling it “very far from reality.”
For Mr. Trump, a public-safety message could offer a “real opportunity” for gains among center-right women if done correctly, said Lorna Romero, a Republican strategist based in Maricopa County. But for the most part, she said, even as the country looks drastically different, his campaign in Arizona has changed little since 2016. During a campaign stop in Yuma last week, Mr. Trump used the bulk of his 55-minute speech to discuss illegal immigration.
But as for the women the party lost in 2018, along with swing voters more broadly, “that messaging is not resonating with them,” Ms. Romero said. “For moderate Republican women and independents, the focus is on coronavirus and education.”
The Trump campaign and the state party, she went on, have seemed to focus on issues “that aren’t as important to the average Arizona household right now.” (During Mr. Trump’s speech in Yuma, he mentioned the virus only briefly, to congratulate himself on issuing an early ban on travel from China.)