Nancy Benac

WASHINGTON: She has no stamina. She shouts. She’s got nothing going for her but being a woman.

Donald Trump, after toying with gender politics off and on during the campaign, is all in on a mission to undercut Hillary Clinton’s credentials by syncing up his say-anything campaign strategy with his alpha-male persona.

The Republican presidential candidate who promises to “cherish” and “protect” women as president is dismissing the former senator, secretary of state and first lady as little more than a token female who’s playing the “woman’s card.”

“Frankly, all I’m doing is stating the obvious,” Trump insisted, when asked whether his Clinton take-downs were sexist. “Without the woman’s card, Hillary would not even be a viable person to run for city council.”

That message may resonate with one subset of the electorate and touch off outrage with another, but for many other voters, Trump’s line of attack is simply baffling when America is trying to deal with far more complex matters of gender, such as gay marriage and transgender rights.

“It’s a very simplistic notion of gender,” said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. She said Trump is “putting out there a notion of masculinity” that fits with popular images of the presidency. “He is playing the gender card but not connecting it to policy, instead connecting it to his own macho image and his bravado.”

Trump rival Ted Cruz says the GOP front-runner’s attacks on Clinton are unsurprising.

“Donald Trump has a real problem with strong women,” Cruz said.

None of this has seemed to bother Trump’s followers in the GOP primaries. But it could be a different matter in the general election, when Republican candidates typically suffer from a gender gap. In every presidential election since 1980, a greater proportion of women than men preferred the Democratic candidate.

After playing down women’s issues in her 2008 campaign against Barack Obama, this time Clinton is playing up her roles as grandmother and longtime advocate for women.

“If fighting for women’s health care, and paid family leave, and equal pay is playing the woman card,” she said, “then deal me in.”