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Opinion Trump’s white backlash strategy faces a huge challenge. Here it is in one chart.

I got this. (Reuters/Carlo Allegri)


Donald Trump’s continued antics — such as his ongoing racist attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel — have many Republicans worried that he is further deepening the demographic hole that threatens to swallow up the GOP in this election cycle. Yet Trump seems blithely unconcerned. Perhaps he can’t imagine he is actually alienating key general election constituencies. Or maybe he thinks such tactics will unleash a mighty wave of white working class backlash that will allow him to make great gains in the industrial Midwest.

Donald Trump told CBS's "Face the Nation" that the judge overseeing the Trump University case has treated him "very unfairly." (Video: Reuters)

Whatever Trump’s thinking, a new demographic analysis of the electorate published today by The Upshot’s Nate Cohn helps deepen our understanding of both the opportunities and challenges for Trump when it comes to maximizing the white vote. It has both good news and bad news for Trump, and while your mileage may vary, it seems to me that the bad news is more significant.

To greatly oversimplify matters, Cohn finds that if you look closely at census and voter file data, the electorate was actually somewhat whiter in 2012 than most analysts think. Yet Obama was able to win reelection anyway — because he actually did somewhat better among white voters than is commonly thought. This was obscured by the fact that Obama performed poorly on a national level among whites — yet that overall performance was driven by his truly abysmal showing among southern whites, meaning he did better among northern ones than the national numbers suggested.

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Thus, there could be more white voters out there in 2016 than we expect, which could be good news for Trump, because it could allow him more room to grow than we thought. The problem for him, though, is that Obama did better than commonly thought among northern whites, particularly young and college educated ones, partly because their cultural liberalism is more in tune with the Democratic Party than with the GOP. If we assume that Trump won’t be more competitive with those voters than Romney was, or that Trump might lose ground among them — given his full blown bigotry and hostility towards women — this means Trump will have to run up truly astronomical numbers among working class whites to win.

The rub, though, is that he’ll have to do that in the battleground states, not just in the south. Here’s Cohn’s state-by-state breakdown of what he’d have to accomplish (click to enlarge):

To win these key battleground states, Trump would have to do substantially better among working class whites than Romney did, all things being equal. But he would have to do even better still among them if he underperforms Romney among Latinos and college educated whites, which is a perfectly reasonable possibility.

The campaign of presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump is sparking a surge in the number of citizenship applications and voter registrations. (Video: Alice Li/The Washington Post)

Right now, Cohn notes, polls show  Trump is under-performing among those demographics, and if Hillary Clinton can improve among them, things will get “very challenging” for Trump. As Cohn finds, if you assume modest losses among those groups, Trump would have to improve his share of the blue collar white vote by eight points in Florida, 10 points in Wisconsin, 12 points in Michigan, 11 points in Virginia, eight points in Pennsylvania, and six points in Ohio.

That might be possible, and we should not underestimate Trump or expect that defeating him will be easy. Still, it would be hard. This is the demographic trap that analyst Ruy Teixeira and others have identified: The more Trump does to maximize gains among blue collar whites, the more he may anger and alienate nonwhites and socially tolerant college educated whites, potentially offsetting any gains Trump makes among the former. By the way, this trap could be further exacerbated if Trump disgusts white women in yuuuuge numbers. If Trump figures out that he’s at great risk of alienating these groups, perhaps he can turn things around. But he seems incapable of even contemplating that possibility.


* ELIZABETH WARREN MULLS ENDORSEMENT OF CLINTON: CNN reports on Elizabeth Warren’s latest thinking about whether to publicly back Clinton while Sanders winds down:

Warren, according to sources familiar with her thinking, won’t take any steps before she has had a chance to speak to Sanders….she is wary of angering her base, sensitive over concerns that the establishment is maneuvering to strong-arm Sanders….So Warren…will wait to hear Sanders’ message after meeting Thursday with President Barack Obama and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid — and whether he begins to wrap up his campaign.

Regardless of the timing, Warren will play a key role in persuading Sanders’s supporters that Clinton’s agenda has many progressive elements and that the primary outcome was legitimate.

* WARREN TO AMPLIFY CASE AGAINST TRUMP, GOP: Senator Warren will deliver a speech today that ties Trump’s attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel to the GOP’s broader refusal to give a hearing to Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. She’ll say:

“Where do you suppose Donald Trump got the idea that he can personally attack judges, regardless of the law, whenever they don’t bend to the whims of billionaires and big business? Trump isn’t a different kind of candidate. He’s a Mitch McConnell kind of candidate. Exactly the kind of candidate you’d expect from a Republican Party whose ‘script’ for several years has been to execute a full-scale assault on the integrity of our courts.”

Warren is quickly emerging as a very effective prosecutor of the case against Trump, and this sort of thing will continue to fuel chatter about her Veep prospects.


Democrats in both camps said they expect to see more specific olive branches offered to Sanders in the weeks ahead, including compromises on the issues platform to be adopted at the party’s July nominating convention and reforms in a Democratic primary process that Sanders criticized as rigged to favor the establishment.

Obviously the devil will be in the details, but both Clinton and Sanders may actually conclude that it’s in both their long term interests to make concessions to the other. No, really, that’s possible!

 * OBAMA TO MEET WITH SANDERS TODAY: CNN reports on the White House’s hopes for the meeting:

In their meeting, Obama won’t directly ask Sanders to exit the race…However, a formal Obama endorsement could come…perhaps as early as Thursday — though not before Obama sits down with Sanders. While it’s unlikely that Sanders emerges in full support of Clinton, White House officials hope Obama can prod the Vermont senator toward eventually acting as a unifying figure for the Democratic Party.

The White House has probably concluded pushing Sanders too hard might not do much good, given that he is unlikely to respond well to that.

 * TRUMP TEAM WOOING THE KOCH BROTHERS: USA Today reports that top officials in the Koch brothers’ network will meet with senior Trump advisers at the request of the Trump team. But Charles Koch will take a lot of persuading:

Asked whether he thought Trump was fit to be president, Koch said: “I don’t know the answer to that.” Koch said it would require a major shift in tone and policy for him to back Trump. Koch said he would need to be convinced that Trump supported his top causes.

The Koch network is likely to continue plowing all its resources into down-ballot races instead, raising the possibility that Trump could get dramatically outspent by Dems.

* GROWING TALK OF REPLACING TRUMP? Yahoo News reports that there is growing chatter in conservative circles about making a serious effort to persuade GOP convention delegates to dump Trump, and one possible replacement is Scott Walker:

Amid this agitation for a Trump alternative, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s name has been increasingly mentioned as a possible replacement….one source who has been involved in the effort to recruit an independent candidate said Walker has told those working to find an alternative that he would be willing to serve as an alternative at the convention if Trump continues to implode.

It’s hard to see how this would work logistically, and even if it did, it would still split the party, since a lot of Republicans, you know, voted for Trump.

* AND THE TRUMPISM OF THE DAY: It comes courtesy of Carl Hulse’s reporting:

As he headed to the Trump Grill for lunch, tourists and workers hailed him, congratulated him and urged him on as they lined up to take photos with their phones. He posed with some women and looked back at a reporter to point at the women and boasted “Hispanics!” Afterward, he bragged: “They say ‘We love you, Mr. Trump. We’re from Mexico.'”

See? The Hispanics love him.