With one question about abortion, a Wisconsin teenager may have accomplished what a raft of Republican presidential candidates could not — she put the brakes on Donald Trump.
And 19-year-old Tanya Niemi is just fine with that.
“It’s funny how such a person — me in Green Bay — can make a difference,” Niemi told NBC News on Tuesday as she was preparing to vote in the Wisconsin primary. “I’m pretty proud of myself. I mean, honestly, I’m excited.”
Niemi’s brush with history came last Wednesday at an MSNBC Town Hall meeting where Chris Matthews was grilling the GOP front-runner.
Stepping up to the microphone, the University of Wisconsin Green Bay student asked the question that had been on her mind.
“Okay, well look,” Trump replied. “I mean, as you know, I’m pro-life. Right, I think you know that, and I — with exceptions, with the three exceptions. But pretty much, that’s my stance. Is that OK? You understand?”
Matthews then followed-up, asking Trump, “Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no as a principle?”
“The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment,” Trump replied.
“For the woman?” Matthews asked.
“Yes, there has to be some form,” Trump answered.
The backlash was instantaneous and within hours Trump tried to walk back his statement. But by then the damage to Trump’s already-low standing with women had been done.
Niemi said she was invited to the Town Hall by one of her professors and she came up with her question after consulting her mother, who is a disabilities services coordinator at UWGB.
“I was just trying to think of a really meaningful question I haven’t heard,” she said. “So, I was like, he hasn’t really touched on women’s rights or reproductive rights.”
Niemi said she didn’t like Trump’s answer to Matthews’ follow-up question at all.
“That really shocked me,” she said.
Niemi said she was also shocked by angry reaction from Trump supporters, some of whom said she had no business being at the event if she wasn’t backing The Donald. She disagrees.
“It’s a once in a lifetime experience,” she said. “I was just, like, I was representing.”
The plucky teen said she didn’t realize she had set off a political powder keg until much later.
“I didn’t really know what I had caused until after all the reactions and messages and professors coming up to me, congratulating me,” she said. “Honestly, it didn’t hit me until it aired and then I got a lot of shares on Facebook, a lot of comments, everything, and they were showing a little clip of it and people were like, ‘Oh my gosh that’s you!'”
Niemi said she got a kick out of being suddenly famous. “It’s pretty nice to be known,” she said.
But if Trump ever had a chance to get Niemi’s vote, he definitely lost it that day.
“I’m voting for Hillary Clinton,” she said.