Baer: Trump & his women: who cares?

Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump attends the University of Pennsylvania Commencement at Franklin Field.

WHILE READING Sunday's front-page New York Times piece about Donald Trump's "crossing the line" with women he worked with, dated or casually encountered, I thought, heck, this won't hurt him.

Then, by Monday, one of the women, former Trump girlfriend Rowanne Brewer Lane, featured in the piece as objectified by Trump, said the Times misrepresented her, and I thought, whoa, the piece actually helps him.

How, you might ask?

It displays Trump as the field-playing macho stud he's played for decades.

He'd date Ivanka if she wasn't his daughter. He doesn't have small hands or small anything else. He wears overlong, hanging neckties - whaddya think that's about?

So why would evidence of what he always implied, which is probably admired and envied by supporters, now cause him less support?

Also, ex-girlfriend Brewer Lane said the Times spun the story to give it a "negative connotation throughout," and that hands Trump more anti-media ammo.

He already asserted media are dishonest "scum." Now he can switch from baiting "Lyin' Ted" to baiting the "Lyin' Times."

Think that costs him support?

Plus, the recent (and lovable) story of Trump phone-posing as his own media spokesman years ago and now denying it? Simply goes away.

So we get further examples of The Donald's chronic bad-boy behavior ending up sliding off "Teflon Trump."

No matter what he says, no matter what he does, no matter what he knows or doesn't know, no matter what he did or to whom, nothing, well, seems to matter.

A brand-new NBC News poll Tuesday shows Trump nearly tied with Hillary Clinton, trailing her by three points, after trailing by five points just last week.

Surely someone can make sense of this.

"The first sign that his candidacy would be so very different came when he disparaged John McCain, an American war hero, and there was no fallout."

So says GOP consultant John Brabender, who's not involved in Trump's campaign but ran campaigns for Rick Santorum.

Brabender notes that after Trump suggested last July that McCain, who served five years as a Vietnam War POW, was not a war hero, Trump's polling never dipped.

That became a pattern: say bad things, insult whole groups, call women names, refuse to release tax returns. And polling numbers go up.

"There are some elections where you have to throw out all the playbooks. This is one of them," says Brabender. "It's an effect that people will talk about and write about long after this campaign is over."

Philly-based Joe Watkins, an MSNBC Republican analyst, thinks he knows why. And, as is often true in politics, the answer's right in front of us: Trump isn't a politician; he's a celebrity and a brand, which benefits him big-time.

"When the New York Times or other big media go after him with things that don't have to do with policy, they do him a favor," Watkins says. "Scandals can make celebrities even bigger stars than before the scandal."

And, says Watkins, Trump understands ratings, knows you've got to keep people watching you: "He knows media, consumers and voters better than any candidate . . . It doesn't make sense to people in politics but he knows how to connect."

Now, clearly, Team Clinton will push hard on Trump and women, especially targeting moderate suburban GOP women to counter gains Trump's making with blue-collar Democrats.

Does that work? Polling, obviously including women, nationally and in critical states such as Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania says not yet.

Still could. Unless too many voters of either gender don't care about Trump's "crossing the line."

baerj@phillynews.com