Democrats bet Trump fears will drive up voter turnout

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Democrats are gleeful at the prospect of Donald TrumpDonald TrumpSanders's Nevada director floated two-sided coins for tiebreaks: report Trump hires ex-Cruz aide as communications director GOP senator on Trump’s VP hunt: 'I know nothing’ MORE on the Republican presidential ticket, believing his candidacy will turn out liberal voters in droves.

So many fear a Trump presidency, Democrats say, that it may generate huge enthusiasm from key segments of the base — even if the party’s likely nominee, Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonRepublicans to release Benghazi report Tuesday Sanders's Nevada director floated two-sided coins for tiebreaks: report Benghazi Blues MORE, fails to resonate on the same level.

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“I think Donald Trump will be a world-class driver of Democratic turnout,” said Democratic strategist Robert Shrum, who has worked on numerous presidential campaigns.

“Latinos, minorities, women and young people — Hillary Clinton is strong with some of those groups and not with others, but what they all share is a disdain for Donald Trump.”

Trump sees things differently, pointing to the high turnout in many of the GOP primaries this year.

Turnout has risen about 40 percent over its 2012 levels. At one debate this month, Trump asserted that such enthusiasm would be enough to “win us the election, and win it easily.”

His broader argument is that he is drawing in people who don’t normally vote. If that same pattern were repeated in a general election — as he insists it will — it could put states that have leaned Democratic up for grabs. 

Trump supporters assert that perennial battleground state Ohio, which President Obama won in both 2008 and 2012, is in this category, as well as Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. A report from PennLive earlier this month indicated about 46,000 registered Democrats in the Keystone State have switched their party registration to Republican since the start of the year — many, presumably, motivated to do so because of Trump.

But skeptics point to a number of data points that are less encouraging for the businessman and his supporters. Recent polls of Ohio and Michigan from NBC News and The Wall Street Journal suggest Trump would lose both states to Clinton in a head-to-head match-up: Ohio by 6 percentage points and Michigan by 16 percentage points.

An analysis conducted by demographic expert Ruy Teixeira at the suggestion of Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent estimated that Trump would have to improve on 2012 nominee Mitt Romney’s performance with working-class whites by significant amounts if he were to win battlegrounds in the industrial Midwest. 

According to that analysis, Sargent wrote, Trump would have to win 62 percent of working-class white votes in Michigan, against Romney’s 53 percent, and 56 percent in Wisconsin, by comparison to Romney’s 50 percent.

Teixeira is a senior fellow with the liberal Center for American Progress, while Sargent blogs from a liberal perspective for the Post. Still, their take buttresses the case — made by analysts on both sides of the partisan divide — that Trump’s abrasiveness and controversial rhetoric is likely to turn off as many voters as it draws in.

“Honestly, I do think that if Donald Trump is on the ticket, we probably will see the highest turnout we’ve ever seen in a presidential election,” said Republican strategist Dan Judy of North Star Opinion Research. “A lot of people will turn out for him who have never voted. But as many, if not more, will turn out to vote against him.”

North Star Opinion Research worked with Florida Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioThe Trail 2016: Warren takes VP batting practice Abortion ruling roils race for the White House, Senate US, Mexico have mutual ambassadors for first time in over a year MORE’s now-defunct presidential campaign.

Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons shares the same overriding analysis. 

“I think [Trump] is right that he will get more atypical voters to come out for him than Mitt Romney did,” Simmons said. “But he will also get more atypical voters to come out against him than Mitt Romney did. That may make a majority coming out against Donald Trump.”

Simmons acknowledged that Clinton has had trouble winning over some demographic groups in the Democratic Party. The Clinton campaign has been disconcerted by the reluctance of young people of either gender to get behind her candidacy in large numbers.

“The biggest challenge for Hillary Clinton will be getting young voters to show up for her in November — young voters who are fond of Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders's Nevada director floated two-sided coins for tiebreaks: report Overnight Finance: McConnell tees up Puerto Rico vote | Britain's credit rating slashed | Clinton vows to appoint trade prosecutor The Trail 2016: Warren takes VP batting practice MORE,” Simmons said. “One of the reasons [Sanders] was able to win Michigan was that he got younger African-Americans to come out in favor of him. But those voters are the most likely ones to be against Donald Trump. She just has to organize them and turn them out.”

Some insiders also noted one of Trump’s biggest challenges: avoiding a wipeout among Hispanic voters, who make up an ever-increasing segment of the electorate and who dislike Trump intensely. The celebrity billionaire is viewed favorably by just 12 percent of Hispanics and unfavorably by 77 percent, according to Gallup’s average of its daily polling between early January and early March. 

“You are going to see the highest Hispanic turnout we’ve ever seen — ever!” Judy asserted. “Trump is going to get absolutely destroyed by those people. I don’t think it’s possible to run the share of the white vote up high enough to make up for that.”

Still, not everyone agrees. 

Last month, a professor of political science at Stony Brook University said his model predicted that Trump, if he were to become the GOP nominee, would have a 97 percent chance of becoming president.

The model by the professor, Helmut Norpoth, has correctly predicted every presidential election, bar the 1960 contest, since 1912.

“The bottom line ... makes it almost certain that Donald Trump will be the next president” if he wins the GOP nomination, Norpoth told the Stony Brook University student newspaper, The Statesman.

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