Mar 8, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Trump allies defend Katie Britt's widely mocked SOTU response

Katie Britt
Screeenshot via CSPAN

Despite widespread criticism, Trump allies see Sen. Katie Britt's (R-Ala.) much-maligned State of the Union response as the opening salvo in a key 2024 campaign strategy — GOP outreach to anti-Trump women.

Why it matters: Britt's speech — set in her kitchen and delivered with a tone that fluctuated between soft and theatrical — was widely mocked on social media. But sources close to former President Trump argue critics are missing the strategic appeal of her message.

  • Trump allies told Axios that Britt's response didn't match the energy of President Biden's address because she was speaking to a more targeted audience of women voters that will be decisive in November's election.
  • The speech by Britt, a 42-year-old mother, addressed border security, crime, and the need to secure a prosperous future for America's children — topics Republicans believe should appeal to women voters.

What they're saying: "Katie Britt was a GREAT contrast to an Angry, and obviously very Disturbed, 'President.' She was compassionate and caring, especially concerning Women and Women's Issues," Trump posted on Truth Social.

Reality check: There's no evidence to suggest Britt's speech was received especially well by women voters, who favor Biden over Trump by more than 20 points, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.

  • Trump has repeatedly bragged about appointing the three conservative Supreme Court justices who helped overturned Roe v. Wade — a ruling opposed by more than 60% of women.
  • "Clearly, clearly, those bragging about overturning Roe v. Wade have no clue about the power of women," Biden said in his State of the Union speech. "We won in 2022 and 2023, and we will win again in 2024."

The big picture: Trump and Republicans know one of their most daunting tasks is to win over women voters who have been turned off by the former president's extreme rhetoric and are worried about reproductive rights.

  • "If you could tell me there was one demographic we could target, it would be women," one source close to the Trump campaign said.
  • Britt, a potential Trump VP pick, sought to reassure voters about in vitro fertilization — saying Republicans support "nationwide" protections for IVF after an Alabama Supreme Court ruling halted treatments in the state last month.
  • The Alabama senator did not, however, explain how IVF protections can be squared with the belief among many conservative Republicans that life begins at fertilization.

Zoom in: Republicans saw the Biden speech as aggressive, fiery and highly partisan. Britt's delivery was much more subdued — but at times took on a halting, dramatic tone.

  • "If you're upset that Biden yelled and she spoke softly, you are missing the point," the source close to the Trump campaign said.
  • A Trump ally shrugged off the criticism of Britt's delivery, saying she could have been more "authentic" but that the speech still did the job.
  • "She was picked as a housewife, not just a senator, somebody who sees it from a different perspective," Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) told HuffPost.

Behind the scenes: Britt was prepped for the speech by Katie Walsh, a former Trump White House deputy chief of staff, and Mike Shields, a former Republican National Committee chief of staff, one source familiar with the process said.

  • Trump advisers floated the idea of asking congressional Republicans to allow Trump himself to give the response, two sources said, but they ultimately chose Britt.

The intrigue: While some Trump allies told Axios that the criticism is largely unfounded, other Republicans were publicly baffled by Britt's speech.

  • "Joe Biden just declared war on the American right and Katie Britt is talking like she's hosting a cooking show whispering about how Democrats 'don't get it,'" tweeted Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk.
  • "Senator Katie Britt is a very impressive person," tweeted former Trump White House communications director Alyssa Farah Griffin. "I do not understand the decision to put her in a *KITCHEN* for one of the most important speeches she's ever given."

Yes, but: The publicity, though, isn't all bad, according to the sources around Trump.

  • The source close to the Trump campaign said the controversy means even more women voters are seeing the speech, which they believe will ultimately be positive for the party.

Zoom out: The strategy of reaching out to women voters will be a long-term and high-priority project for the GOP, which Trump allies conceded won't be accomplished with one speech.

  • Suburban women are "screaming" for a reason to vote for Republicans, the Trump ally said, but have been moving away from the party over the last two elections.
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