Can Donald Trump somehow ride an angry wave of Rust Belt blue collar white votes into the White House? Today the Atlantic’s Ronald Brownstein weighs in with one of the most comprehensive analyses yet of this question, one that rests on demographic analysis and interviews with strategists in both parties.
The key takeaway from Brownstein’s analysis: It’s not impossible, but a lot has to go right for Trump in order to make it happen, rendering it highly improbable.
The starting point here is the view — shared by operatives in both parties — that the industrial Midwest is the most promising ground for Trump to make inroads, because in virtually all of the swing states in that region, “whites without a college degree exceed their share of the national vote.” The problem, though, is that for unknown reasons, Democrats tend to win among that demographic in that region by slightly larger percentages than they do nationally. Which means that Trump has to run up the score enormously among working class whites, relative to Mitt Romney’s 2012 performance, in these states in order to win them:
Trump would need to reduce the Democratic vote share among working-class whites by nearly three percentage points in Iowa, five points in Wisconsin, six points in Pennsylvania, and about 11 points in Michigan. In Ohio, which Obama won by an eyelash, even a fractional decline among blue-collar whites for Democrats would tip the state.
This is only slightly more optimistic for Trump than the analysis that demographer Ruy Teixeira recently conducted for this blog, which showed that Trump would have to drive the Dem share of the white working class vote down six points in Wisconsin, six points in Pennsylvania, and three points in Ohio. While Brownstein’s analysis concludes Ohio is within reach for Trump, he also identifies a number of other problems:
— Trump’s prospects for winning those states by driving down the Dems’ share of the blue collar white vote assume that he performs as well as Romney did among both nonwhites and college educated whites. It’s reasonable to predict Trump may alienate both those groups and could under-perform among them.
Indeed, here looms the demographic trap I’ve talked about before: Whatever Trump says and does to drive up his share of the blue collar white vote could also produce a corresponding drop in his share of the nonwhite and/or college educated white vote.
— Trump’s ability to remain constant among college educated whites could be complicated by the possibility that he’ll alienate college educated white women, and national polls show that he already under-performs among them. Democrats have already signaled that they’re going to make a big play for suburban women.
— Trump’s ability to win over blue collar white votes in far larger numbers could also be complicated if he alienates blue collar white women. It’s also a demographic that the Clinton campaign is certain to make an aggressive play for with an emphasis on kitchen table economics.
— Trump could also try to drive up turnout among blue collar whites in the industrial Midwest, but that will be complicated by ongoing demographic shifts that are rendering even relatively whiter Rust Belt states less white.
— All of this could be exacerbated by high turnout among African Americans, in part thanks to Trump’s affection for spewing insults in the direction of Barack Obama.
— For all these reasons, and also because Michigan and Pennsylvania are both very hard lifts for any GOP presidential candidate, conservative strategists interviewed by Brownstein conclude that Trump’s most likely path would require him to win Florida and Ohio. But even here, he’d probably need two more Rust Belt states (ones that are more gettable than Michigan and Pennsylvania) to win, such as Wisconsin and Iowa.
So, if Brownstein has this right, here’s what would have to happen for Trump to get elected president: He’d probably have to drive down likely nominee Hillary Clinton’s share of some of the Rust Belt blue collar white vote to levels substantially lower than Barack Obama received. He’d also have to come close to matching Romney’s performance among nonwhites and college educated whites. This would mean somehow dodging that demographic trap and avoiding alienating college educated and non-college white women, which might be tough, given Trump’s apparently uncontrollable public displays of sexism and all around disgusting-ness. He’d probably have to win Florida and Ohio, and a couple more Rust Belt states, too.
Anything is possible, and Democrats by all means should not under-estimate Trump. But this seems tough to pull off.
* GOP LEADERS BRACE FOR TRUMP DAMAGING PARTY: The New York Times reports that GOP leaders are hard at work to determine how vulnerable Senate and House incumbents can avoid getting dragged down by a Donald Trump nomination:
Republicans..believe it would be essential for candidates running in diverse or comparatively affluent areas to break with Mr. Trump on matters of policy, and perhaps to denounce his nomination in blunt terms. With control of the Senate resting in large part on Democratic-leaning states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Republicans are preparing to run aggressively localized campaigns aimed at persuading voters to split their ballot for a Republican senator even if they support a Democrat for president.
In other words, the challenge is to get GOP voters who don’t want to vote for Trump to come out and vote for the Republican Senate or House candidate.
* DEMS HOPE TRUMP PUTS HOUSE IN PLAY: The above New York Times piece also serves up this nugget:
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is mounting a late push to stretch the political map by recruiting candidates in as many as 10 conservative-leaning House districts, in states like Florida and Kansas, where analysts believe Mr. Trump will harm Republicans…its data team [is] studying which of Mr. Trump’s ideas and comments would be most offensive to key voting blocs, and how best to project those themes in congressional races.
Keep an eye on the recruits — if you see Dems land good candidates in traditionally tough districts for them, it’ll be a sign of confidence that Trump will expand the map.
* TRUMP’S SUPPORT RISES YET AGAIN: The new NBC News/Survey Monkey Tracking Poll finds that Donald Trump commands the support of 48 percent of registered Republicans and GOP-leaning independents nationally, to 27 percent for Ted Cruz and 18 for John Kasich. Note:
A majority — 57 percent — of registered Republicans and Republican-leaners…say that Trump should win the Republican nomination for president if he wins a plurality (but not necessarily a majority) of delegates. About a quarter (27 percent) do not think he should win the nomination and 14 percent are not sure.
This would suggest Trump could unleash real disruptions among GOP voters if the nomination is given to someone else at a contested convention.
* REPUBLICANS SEE IMMIGRANTS AS A THREAT: The Public Religion Research Institute has released an in-depth polling study gauging Americans’ attitudes towards immigration. Note this:
A majority (53%) of Republicans say that immigrants constitute a threat to traditional American customs and values; roughly one-third (32%) say they strengthen American society. In contrast, a majority of independents (52%) and Democrats (63%) say that newcomers from other countries strengthen American society.
However: “A slim majority (51%) of young Republicans (age 18 to 29) say that immigrants strengthen American society, compared to 36% who say they threaten American society.” So maybe the party will moderate on this issue someday.
* WHY BERNIE FACES A TOUGH ROAD AHEAD: Nate Cohn games out the math: If the voting breaks down along the demographic lines it has followed so far, Clinton will win a majority of the remaining delegates:
Our model estimates that Mrs. Clinton would win around 54 percent of the remaining delegates, not including nonstate contests like Puerto Rico. She loses in a bunch of predominantly white, working-class states where Mr. Sanders is hoping to fare well: Wisconsin, Wyoming, North Dakota, Kentucky, Oregon, Indiana and West Virginia. But she holds on in the affluent and diverse states along the coasts. Mr. Sanders will need to win these states — and probably by a comfortable margin — to overtake her delegate lead.
The Sanders campaign has vowed to try to peel away her super-delegate support even if he is trailing narrowly in the popular vote and pledged delegate count at the end. So if Clinton wins, a larger pledged delegate margin might lead to a cleaner resolution.
* GOP SENATORS WILL MEET WITH MERRICK GARLAND: NBC News tallies it up: 16 GOP senators have agreed to meet with Merrick Garland, Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, but only three have said he should receive hearings.
Our handy Plum Line calculator informs us that this means probably over a dozen are meeting with him simply to inform him that they will not consider him.
* REPUBLICANS STILL NOT BUDGING ON COURT BATTLE: Today the first GOP Senator (Mark Kirk of Illinois) is having a sit-down with Garland, but Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley still says there will be no hearings. Here’s why:
“We know that his hearing is going to be strictly political,” Grassley said. “Why spend time on theater that won’t produce anything?”
Translation: Our own decision in advance not to even consider anyone nominated by Obama ensures that no facts about the nominee’s experience or qualifications will ever weigh on us. So why bother?