As I have previously explained in The secret to Trump’s success: the GOP is the party of white identity and white grievances:
Donald Trump made the strategic decision to disregard the RNC’s 2012 election “autopsy” report from its Growth and Opportunity Project, which called on the party to be more inclusive towards minorities, especially Latinos, which the RNC said was critical to the future growth of the GOP.
Trump instead has doubled-down on Sean Trende’s thesis of The Case of the Missing White Voters: that a large portion of the demographic change we saw in the 2012 electorate was not due to increased turnout, but rather a drop in white voter participation. Trende followed up his original story with a second piece in 2013 that suggested these voters were mostly lower-income, blue-collar voters who lived in areas that had also voted for Ross Perot. If the GOP could find a candidate to motivate these voters sufficiently, it could narrow the gap between them and Democrats and offset some of the losses Republicans could suffer due to demographic shifts.
In other words, whites are still the majority in America, and if Donald Trump and his authoritarian crypto-fascist white supporters can take control of the government, they will “Make America
Great White Again” and put those minorities back in their place.
This belief that there are enough angry old white people who identify with the GOP and Donald Trump to build an electoral majority from is not supported by the demographic evidence. (This of course assumes that there will not be an equally robust effort to suppress Democratic voter constituencies from voting).
Nancy Le Tourneau at the Political Animal blog summarizes recent reporting on this topic in Gaming Out a Clinton/Trump Contest:
We’ve reached that point in this election cycle where most pundits are assuming that the November ballot will pit Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump. But since the primaries haven’t concluded yet, it is important to acknowledge that polling for the general election is not terribly predictive. All the same, folks are weighing in on how they think that contest will go down.
Kicking things off over the weekend was [the Washington Post’s] Dan Balz who wrote: How Trump vs Clinton Could Change the Electoral Map.
Among the 18 states that have been in Democratic hands since the 1992 election are Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Along with Ohio and Iowa, those heartland states are likely to be the most intensely contested battlegrounds in the country if a Trump-Clinton race materializes.
All those states have higher concentrations of white voters, including larger percentages of older, white working-class voters, than many of the states in faster-growing areas that Obama looked to in his two campaigns.
“If he drives big turnout increases with white voters, especially with white male voters, that has the potential to change the map,” said a veteran of Obama’s campaigns, who spoke anonymously in order to share current analysis of the fall campaign.
That is likely to be the preferred narrative of many in the media who hope to cast this as a close battle down to election day.
But then, along comes Greg Sargent with this headline: Donald Trump Will (Almost Certainly) Never Be Elected President. Here’s Why. Sargent worked with demographer Ruy Teixeira to document the following (full post):
With Donald Trump steamrolling towards the GOP nomination, the political chatter is increasingly focused on whether Trump could win a general election by making surprise inroads into states in the industrial Midwest. Many Democrats and nonpartisan observers see this as probably the only plausible (if that’s even the right word for it) path for Trump, who might do this mainly by running up huge numbers among white voters — particularly blue collar whites.
But a new examination of the demographics and projected voting patterns in some of the key Rust Belt states underscores just how unlikely this really is. To succeed, this analysis finds, Trump would likely have to improve on Mitt Romney’s advantage over Barack Obama among blue collar whites by double digit margins, which is an astronomically high bar — in almost all of these states.
Demographer Ruy Teixeira conducted this analysis at my request. Teixeira was the lead analyst on a comprehensive report on the projected makeup of the 2016 electorate that was released by the Center for American Progress late last year. He built on that report in this new analysis.
The rub of the matter is that Trump’s goal of winning by running up big margins among whites could be made even harder by ongoing demographic shifts that are slowly rendering even whiter Rust Belt states less white.
The CAP report found that in a number of these states — Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Ohio — the blue collar white share of the vote is projected to decline by at least two percentage points, and the overall white share is projected to drop by around one point.
I asked Teixeira to factor in these expected shifts to calculate how much better Trump would have to fare among working class whites than Romney did in order to win each state. In each of these, Teixeira assumes that the Democratic candidate (likely Hillary Clinton) will win the same share of the nonwhite and college educated white vote that Obama did, which, if anything, is generous to Trump. Given the overall margins that Obama won these states by — which are in some cases quite large — Trump would have to improve enormously on Romney’s performance among blue collar whites:
— In Michigan, where Romney beat Obama by 53-45 among working class whites, Trump would have to win among them by 62-36, an improvement of 18 points.
— In Wisconsin, where Romney beat Obama by 50-48 among working class whites, Trump would have to win among them by 56-42, an improvement of 12 points.
— In Pennsylvania, where Romney beat Obama by 56-42 among working class whites, Trump would have to win among them by 63-36, an improvement of 13 points.
— In Ohio, where Romney beat Obama by 57-41 among working class whites, Trump would have to win among them by 60-38, an improvement of six points. (This is lower than the others because Ohio was much closer overall; but even six points is a pretty sizable improvement.)
Now let’s be even more generous to Trump. Let’s assume he can win college educated white voters by larger margins than Romney did (which seems unlikely, though not impossible), and calculate how much he would need to improve over Romney’s performance among white voters overall, meaning among both working class and college educated whites taken as one group. (This again assumes the Dem wins among nonwhites by the same margins Obama did.) If you factor in demographic shifts, here’s what you get:
— In Michigan, where Romney beat Obama by 52-46 among white voters overall, Trump would have to win among them by 58-40, an improvement of 12 points.
— In Wisconsin, where Romney beat Obama by 50-49 among white voters overall, Trump would have to win among them by 54-45, an improvement over Romney of eight points.
— In Pennsylvania, where Romney beat Obama 54-44 among white voters overall, Trump would have to win among them by 58-40, an improvement of eight points.
— In Ohio, where Romney beat Obama by 56-42 among white voters overall, Trump would have to win among them by 58-40, an improvement of four points. (This seems doable, but again, this presumes Trump makes inroads among college educated whites and that the nonwhite spread remains the same.)
“It seems very unlikely that Trump can do so much better than Romney among whites and particularly working class whites in these states,” Teixeira tells me. “The swings are just too big.”
Now, Trump backers might argue that he will also drive up turnout among white voters relative to nonwhites, meaning he would not have to win among them by these margins to prevail. But here is where a demographic trap intrudes: All of things that Trump might say and do to drive up white turnout — particularly working class white turnout — would also likely drive up nonwhite turnout. So there’s no reason to expect a major boost in turnout from one group and not the other, Teixeira says.
I don’t think he can produce a tsunami of white turnout in these states without provoking an answering surge in minority turnout,” says Teixeira, who has a lot more comprehensive demographic analysis at his Election Oracle page. “The fact of the matter is that his path in the Midwest/Rustbelt is very, very difficult no matter how you look at it.”
But it’s clear Trump might not just change the electoral landscape but could instead move tectonic plates. And for a Republican Party reasonably optimistic about 2016 from the get-go, that’s an unsettling possibility. You can construct a scenario in which Trump wins a general election. It’s just as easy, though, to construct a scenario where he loses in a catastrophic manner of the sort partisan polarization supposedly made impossible.
Finally, Susan Page and Jenny Ung provide results from a USA Today/Rock the Vote poll of voters under 35 years of age which demonstrates that nothing will inspire the youth vote quite like having Donald Trump as the Republican nominee.
Opposition to Trump nearly unites the rising generation.
In a hypothetical Clinton v. Trump contest in November, voters under 35 would choose Clinton by a crushing 52%-19%, a preference that crosses demographic lines. Among whites, she’d be backed by nearly 2-1, 45%-26%. Among Hispanics, by more than 4-1, 61%-14%. Among Asian Americans, by 5-1, 60%-11%. Among African Americans, by 13-1, 67%-5%.
And the yawning gender gap she has against Sanders would vanish: Clinton would carry young men and women by almost identical margins of more than 2-1.
Nearly one in four Republicans would defect to the Democrats if the GOP nominated Trump against Clinton. Just 7% of Democrats would defect to the GOP.
If I were in the prediction business, I’d tend to lean towards the analysis suggesting that the election will be rather lopsided in favor of Clinton. But we still have seven months to go and a lot can change between now and then. Let the games begin…
Demographics is destiny. Donald Trump is not going to be the “Great White Hope” of conservative revanchists who want to turn back the clock on decades of progress. However, he could be the final death blow to the Republican Party.