THE MORNING PLUM:
A new batch of Quinnipiac polls shows very tight races between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida — which will probably activate a fresh round of punditry insisting that Trump can ride a wave of Rust Belt white anger into the White House.
Here’s one reason to remain skeptical of that idea, however: The Clinton campaign will make an all out effort to win over white women, and it will probably have some success. Jonathan Cohn reports this morning that Clinton will lay out an ambitious agenda today for improving child care and making it more affordable.
The new agenda would boost support for “home visiting” programs for low-income, at-risk kids and boost pay for child care workers. As Cohn notes, the most interesting — and perhaps unrealistic — aspect of the plan is a vow that the federal government should commit to making sure that families never pay more than 10 percent of income on child care. All this is the latest sign that child care is becoming a central pillar of the liberal agenda and leading priority for the Democratic party.
And this could matter to the debate over whether Trump can win by maximizing turnout and performance among white voters. Proposals like this one are key to the Clinton campaign’s efforts to cut into swing constituencies, such as suburban, independent, and college-educated and blue collar white women. Polling shows that Trump’s unfavorable ratings are soaring among college educated whites and white women — and he’s even marginally underwater with blue collar whites.
As Ron Brownstein has showed, Trump has to improve on Mitt Romney’s performance among white women if he is going to have any hope of building a national majority. Crucial to this, Brownstein demonstrates, will be improving his standing among both economically struggling blue collar and white collar women. If Clinton can merely match Barack Obama’s performance among college educated whites — which seems very plausible, particularly if she can do well among white collar women — Trump’s hopes of winning by maximizing among blue collar whites becomes even more far fetched.
It’s worth noting that there are two major lines of attack available on Trump that could continue to undermine him with women. The first highlights his sexism, recklessness, vulgarity, and all around unfitness for the presidency. That’s the low-hanging fruit. The second line of attack is more challenging: Democrats will have to go directly at something that could give Trump appeal among white swing voters: his argument that bad trade deals and all around elite incompetence have screwed over the working and middle classes for decades; and that Clinton is a member of those elites who has been complicit in that and will only bring more of the same.
So the Clinton team, in addition to trying to destroy Trump’s image in the minds of female voters, will need to make a broad and affirmative economic argument in favor of her candidacy. One aspect of this response will be concrete economic ideas that have appeal not just to suburban women, but also to the sort of blue collar white women who may be particularly winnable, with Trump at the top of the GOP ticket — ideas such as this new child care proposal. Democrats tell me that it’s important not to see the blue collar white vote as a monolith: struggling non-college white women, in particular, may be more receptive to activist government policies designed to assist people economically, like this one.
It remains to be seen whether the Clinton team will marshal a broad economic rebuttal to Trump, or what that might look like. But for now such proposals are worth watching to see if they further complicate Trump’s efforts to ride white voters into the White House, by making headway among white women.
* TIGHT CLINTON-TRUMP MATCH-UP IN SWING STATES? The new Quinnipiac polls find Donald Trump beating Clinton in Ohio by 43-39; and Clinton edging Trump by 43-32 in Florida and Pennsylvania. Bernie Sanders (who has not been subjected to a national attack for over two decades, as Clinton has) runs stronger than she does.
This is somewhat out of sync with the polling averages, which put Clinton up six in Florida; up three in Ohio; and up eight in Pennsylvania. Now that the general election is starting, don’t get seduced by individual polls. Stick to the polling averages!
* THE FINAL FORECAST FOR WEST VIRGINIA: FiveThirtyEight’s final forecast gives Bernie Sanders a 63 percent chance of winning in West Virginia today. But FiveThirtyEight projects a very tight finish of 50-47, and HuffPollster’s polling average has it at a similarly tight 47-43.
The two will come close to dividing the state’s 29 delegates, so the outcome won’t alter the delegate math.
* WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN WEST VIRGINIA: Steven Shepard has a good guide:
Sanders has especially excelled among less-educated whites — he won them, 65 percent to 35 percent, last week in Indiana. Whites without a college degree only made up about a third of the electorate in Indiana, but they may be closer to two-thirds of the West Virginia Democratic electorate. Clinton’s best hope is to capitalize an older electorate, especially in more-populous sections of the state. Roughly four-in-10 voters were 60 or older in 2008, and Clinton has won more than 70 percent of seniors this year.
How Clinton fares among blue collar voters could — could — have some ramifications for the general.
* BIG GOP GROUPS SITTING OUT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION? The New York Times reports that the massive fundraising operations of Karl Rove and the Koch brothers may sit out the presidential election:
The Karl Rove-led group American Crossroads is also in a wait-and-see crouch, with officials saying they have no immediate plans to buttress the Republican nominee. Both it and the Kochs’ network are now expected to focus more on aiding Republicans’ efforts to retain their majority in the Senate….other donors remain staunchly opposed. Paul Singer, the billionaire financier…made clear at a gala Monday night…that he could not support Mr. Trump.
Though Trump is vowing to raise $1 billion for the party, this raises the possibility that in the aggregate, the Trump effort could end up getting dramatically outspent by the Clinton forces.
* GOP SENATORS DUCK QUESTIONS ABOUT TRUMP: CNN reports that GOP Senators returning to the Capitol are “squeamish” about Trump’s nomination. Like so:
Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho said, “I’m not giving any interviews about this presidential race.” Sen. Jerry Moran, of Kansas, ducked into an elevator apparently avoiding questions about Trump, and other Republicans were apprehensive, saying they needed more time. “I haven’t met him yet, so I want to get to talk to him about some issues,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia.
Maybe if more time passes, and these senators hear out Trump, his positions on mass deportations and banning Muslims, and all that video of him insulting women and immigrants, will magically disappear.
* AND A CLINTON-WARREN DREAM TEAM? The Hill reports that Democrats are warming to the idea:
Amid concerns that supporters of Bernie Sanders will choose to stay home on Election Day, a number of Democrats see a Clinton-Warren alliance as an all-woman dream team that could ignite deep enthusiasm in the progressive base and make the 2016 Democratic presidential ticket truly historic. It would also eliminate the pro-Wall Street storyline that has haunted Clinton’s campaign throughout the primary season, Clinton allies believe.
Hmmm, maybe. Or perhaps Warren will end up playing an important unifying role, helping to make the case for Clinton to Bernie backers, without getting picked as Veep candidate.