Can Donald Trump Win? These Battleground Regions Will Decide

by teacherken –

battleground states

This article explores what it would take for Trump to truly be competitive.  After a brief introduction, it examines four states in the key areas in which Trump has to be competitive in order to win:  Florida, the upper Southeast, the Rust Belt, and the interior West.  In each case a different New York Times writer examines a specific state:  Alexander Burns examines South Florida; Jonathan Martin explores North Carolina;  Trip Gabriel goes to Pennsylvania, where he focuses on Luzerne County (Wilke-Barre) in the northeastern part of the state, and wealth Chester County (West Chester) in the Philadelphia suburbs; and Fernanda Santos goes to Arizona, with a specific focus on Maricopa County, where Trump’s strong early ally Joe Arpaio is up for re-election as Sheriff.

Each article lays out where there are possibilities for Trump, but also points out how there are areas of difficulties for him as well.

While the combination of articles is long, I strongly suggest that people read all four.  I am going to focus on only a few things that caught my attention.

It is hard to imagine a Republican winning the Presidency without Florida. In fact, one can argue that Trump would need to win at least two of Florida, Ohio and Virginia to have any chance. As a Virginian, I would say for all practical purposes the Old Dominion is out of his reach —  after all, Rubio almost beat him here in the primary, all five state-wide elected officials are Democrats (Mark Warner holding his seat in the otherwise bleak year nationally for Democrats in 2014), a substantial African-American population with strong ties to the Clintons and with the possibility of electing two Black Congressmen (each, by the way, in redrawn districts with about 60% whites, but each district also well carried by Obama in 2012 when he won the state by 4%).

I am going to treat the overall piece as four separate articles from the standpoint of fair use.

Here’s what I start with on the Florida piece:

If Mr. Trump has effectively staked his campaign nationwide on strong support from whites, Florida may present the most punishing test of his strategy, as Hispanics here, including conservative-leaning Cuban-Americans who twice helped George W. Bush carry the state, turn away from his candidacy en masse.

Mr. Trump has trampled local sensibilities in myriad ways, from his belittling treatment of Mr. Rubio and Mr. Bush to his personal coarseness, slashing comments on immigration and endorsement of open relations with the Castro government.

In addition to Mr. Regalado, two Republican members of Congress from Florida, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo, have said they will not back Mr. Trump, as has Carlos A. Gimenez, the Republican mayor of Miami-Dade County. All four are Cuban-American.

Yes, Trump may do better in the Panhandle, which has far more in common with the White populations of Alabama and Mississippi than it does with either the heavily Latino Miami area or the increasingly diverse I-4 corridor.

Yet the failure of Republican Hispanics to strongly back Trump is a real problem. And despite his part-time residency in the state, I actually do not believe he can win the state, especially if the turnout in Miami-Dade and the surrounding counties, including Broward, is high:  the latest Quinnipiac Poll shows Trump losing those areas by almost 40%.

Obama carried North Carolina by 1% in 2008, and lost it by 2% the last cycle.  The part of the article that sets the state are these three paragraphs:

North Carolina may be the most evenly divided presidential battleground in the country.

Its two biggest population centers, Charlotte and the so-called Research Triangle of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, have been transformed by an influx of political centrists from other states. The fastest-growing party registration preference is not Republican nor Democrat, but unaffiliated. The rural white “Jessecrats,” conservative Democrats who reliably cast ballots for Mr. Helms, are dying off. Elections are now won in the fast-growing edge towns like Cary, outside Raleigh, which natives joke stands for Containment Area for Relocated Yankees.

Neither Mr. Trump, with his hard-edge nationalism, nor Mrs. Clinton, with a swirl of scandal surrounding her, is a natural fit for a state that hungers for political moderation but is increasingly disenchanted with the political class.

The changing demographics remind me of what has happened in Virginia.  There is one big difference, which does give Trump hope:  North Carolina has been very aggressive in moves to suppress minority voters, between strict voter id laws and rolling back early voting  (NC was a state in which “souls to the polls” on the Sunday before the election was very big).  On the other hand, the Moral Mondays movement led by Rev. William Barber has been successful in pushing back at what the Republican controlled state government has been doing, and it is worth noting that the incumbent Republican Governor Pat McCrory may be in trouble for reelection.  The article does not discuss the possible interaction between the statewide race for Governor and the Presidential election.  It does talk about how the battle over the bathroom bill, HB2, is having an impact.

Of the four states being discussed in the long piece, I think NC may be Trump’s best shot.  But then remember —  Romney carried NC, and still lost the electoral college 332- 208, so just the fact that Trump may have to battle here is NOT a good sign for him.

When we get to the Rust Belt article focused on Pennsylvania, there is something that grabbed my attention other than the Keystone State:

A handful of victories in the Rust Belt states stretching from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin could allow Mr. Trump to lose Florida and still become president. But all Rust Belt states are not equal: Ohio, which Mr. Obama won by just two percentage points four years ago, is the most likely Republican pickup. Michigan, which Mr. Obama won by about 10 points, is the biggest stretch.

One would think that Michigan, which has been hard hit by jobs moved overseas, would be fertile territory for Trump.  And one might think the focus would be on OH, which as the paragraph notes, is the most likely Republican pickup.  Except there it is important to remember that Trump lost Ohio in the primary, granted to a home-state governor, at the same time that Clinton beat Sanders by 14%.  In part, that is because Ohio’s economy is doing better than much of the Rust Belt.

Looking at Pennsylvania, allow me to simply offer a few snips:

The challenge for him in Pennsylvania is to expand his appeal to blue-collar voters without alienating white-collar Republicans, including women repelled by his free-floating insults and businesspeople who doubt his conservatism.

In relying on white working-class voters, Mr. Trump is bucking a demographic tide: The share of those voters in the Rust Belt is on the decline, while the share of college graduates is rising, said Ruy Teixeira, an elections analyst at the liberal Center for American Progress

“Trump is trying to run up historically large margins” among the white working class, Mr. Teixeira said, “but there’s less of them to run up.”

Texeira is focusing on a demographic trend that is a problem for Trump nationwide, as I pointed out  yesterday in Two tweets that define Trump’s electoral problem.

Finally, there is Arizona.  It is my opinion that if Trump loses Arizona, he is toast.  That lowers the base he gets from Trump to less than 200 electoral votes, and it is hard to imagine he can make it up elsewhere.  After all, if he loses AZ, he has already taken off the table the possible battleground states of NV, CO, and NM.

So consider these snips:

Arizona is both a flash point in the nation’s immigration battles and a microcosm of a changing United States. One in three residents is Latino, and one in four Latinos is old enough to vote. And while the white population is aging — its median age is 43 — the median age of Latinos is 26.

This is the demographic time bomb that the Republicans were attempting to address in their review (autopsy) of what had happened in 2012, to which Trump’s rhetoric is so in opposition as to be destructive.

“I spent 30 minutes talking to a man — he was very angry, very disillusioned,” said Mr. Salinas as he prepared to knock on doors on Phoenix’s overwhelmingly Hispanic west side. “He was undocumented, but he took home three voter registration forms for his kids.”

Remember, many undocumented aliens have been here a long time, and their children are citizens —  50,000 Latino citizens nationally turn 18 each month.

And then there is this:

In 2010, there were 91,000 Latinos registered to cast their ballots by mail in Arizona. This month, the number has climbed above 300,000 — and state officials say that people who vote by mail are twice as likely to cast their ballots.

Romney carried about ¼ of Hispanics in 2012.  I do not know of any reasonable analyst who thinks Trump will carry any place near that percentage, and this will be in a Hispanic vote that represents about 2% larger share of the national vote.  In Arizona the increase is likely to be quite higher.  Yes, Romney carried the state by 9%, and Dems cannot win merely through the Hispanic vote.  But the article suggests that some White voters are going to be angry at the cost Joe Arpaio has imposed upon the taxpayers by his actions.

And again, as in North Carolina, that Trump has to fight to hold a state that was won by Romney is an indication of how steep I think his climb is.

So there you have it.  An examination of the setting in 4 key states.  Trump has to hold two and pick off two Obama won.  But if that is all he did, he would still lose, having gained 49, changing the margin from last cycles 332-206 to 283-255, not enough.

Quite frankly, I think the best Trump could do is to hold AZ and NC.  On current polling, he would do the latter, but not the former, at least according to Benchmark Politics.

Make of this what you will.


Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos