Ever since Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016, observers have wondered what might finally loosen Trump’s grip on the aging, rural, exurban, blue-collar and evangelical voters who make up his core constituencies.

While Republicans did see support among Trump constituencies erode in the 2018 elections, many polls showed Trump’s support largely undiminished with them. It became a cliche for reporters to venture into Trump country and find that the latest outrage hadn’t landed. Full-blown corruption? Pardoning cronies? Caging migrant children? Subverting national security policy to his reelection needs? Nope, nope, nope and nope.

But it needs to be asked whether the coronavirus crisis is beginning to do what these other things have thus far largely failed to do.

Some Democratic strategists believe this is in the process of happening, and a new ad from the super PAC American Bridge provides an occasion to look at this growing belief among Democrats.

The spot features a young woman talking about the death of her father, a Trump voter in Arizona, due to the novel coronavirus — but also shows her claiming that he realized he’d been “betrayed” by Trump, presumably in some kind of near-death admission:

American Bridge 21st Century, a liberal super PAC, has a new political ad slamming the Trump administration's response to covid-19. (American Bridge 21st Century)

The ad, which will be rotated into a multimillion-dollar buy in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, suggests that the man decided to “follow” his leaders in some sense on the coronavirus and that this “cost him his life.”

The ad doesn’t say exactly how. But CNN reports that the young woman, Kristin Urquiza, wrote a letter to Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona that blamed her father’s death in part on the Republican governor’s opposition to local governments implementing safety measures, which Trump generally opposed as well.

An operative at American Bridge tells me the group’s testing found this ad is potent with Trump-friendly constituencies. Viewing it moved elderly people, non-college whites, voters who switched from Barack Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016 and low-enthusiasm Trump supporters toward Biden.

It might be that there is a kind of unique power in the sheer horror of the mounting carnage under the coronavirus crisis, particularly when it’s combined with Trump’s constant denial of its existence, his undisguised prioritization of his reelection needs over any obligation to level with the public about it and his appalling refusal to use all his powers to combat it.

All this has absolutely saturated our consciences for months, with a kind of all-pervasiveness that you rarely see with any single issue, save perhaps war and economic depression (the latter of which we’re well on our way to getting as well). It’s been impervious to Trump’s distortions and lies, and can’t be explained away by blaming nefarious elites who supposedly have contempt for Trump voters.

And it all seems uniquely targeted at Trump’s strengths with those voter groups — the idea that his outsider businessman acumen could shake the political system by the collar into acting on big challenges; the idea that he’ll bust up the furniture to help people forsaken by supercilious, self-indulgent elites for so long.

Trump does appear to be suffering erosion with core constituencies. The new Post/ABC poll finds him tied with Joe Biden among seniors, even as Biden wins 36 percent of non-college whites. The latter is closer to Barack Obama’s 2012 numbers than to Hillary Clinton’s in 2016. If Biden holds at those levels with those groups, that’s a real threat to Trump.

Democrats have told me that it’s a big challenge to communicate with Trump-leaning constituencies about his towering failures without triggering a defensive reaction. This has often entailed eschewing overly partisan-sounding or Resistance-thrilling attacks on him and instead opting for gentle nudging, sometimes with footage of individuals expressing quiet and sincere disillusionment with the reality of Trump.

This new ad takes that to another level. If it proves persuasive to Trump supporters, you can expect to see more of this. Unfortunately, there may be far too many stories like this out there that fit the bill.

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Historian Carol Anderson traces the evolution of voter suppression tactics — from poll taxes to poll closures — and argues they are all rooted in White rage. (The Washington Post)

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