Presidential races

Trump-Clinton race redraws battle for Electoral College

Getty Images

This year’s extraordinary presidential election is redrawing the political map, leaving experts debating whether the shift is a one-off or a more permanent change.

States expected to be hotly contested battlegrounds, such as Colorado, Virginia and even North Carolina, are shifting into the Democratic column, according to recent polls. Erstwhile Republican strongholds such as Georgia, Arizona and Utah are now competitive. 

In Iowa and Ohio, GOP nominee Donald Trump is not running as far behind Mitt Romney’s showing in 2012 as he is elsewhere. Both states have a high proportion of white voters and voters without a college degree.

The overall picture is an ominous one for the GOP, according to Republican strategists.

They fear their party could see its fortunes mauled as a consequence of two factors: large-scale demographic changes that make the landscape less hospitable for the GOP, and Trump’s startlingly poor performance so far with normally reliable pillars of Republican support, such as college-educated whites.

“It’s a combination: The demographics are changing in various states, and also Donald Trump is going in the opposite direction to where a Republican needs to go to adapt to those changes,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican strategist who has argued for years that the GOP needs to adapt to shifts in American demography. Ayres worked with the presidential campaign of one of Trump’s rivals, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

For many Republicans, the overarching question is whether Trump is an aberration or a harbinger of things to come. 

If he is the former, than even a heavy loss this year could be turned around by a more conventional presidential candidate in future cycles. 

But if college graduates or white women are turning against the party, that could be a much greater problem, potentially reshaping the electoral calculus for many years.

Much media attention has been given over to Trump’s difficulties with non-white voters, a factor that many observers trace to his signature proposal to build a wall on the southern border with Mexico and his incendiary rhetoric since the launch of his campaign last year, when he called some Hispanic illegal immigrants “rapists” and other criminals.

In recent days, Trump has also sought to improve his poor standing with black voters, asking African-Americans what they have to lose from breaking with their allegiance to the Democratic Party.

Yet for all the media attention on the politics of race, Trump is not doing that much worse with minorities than Romney did in 2012.

Meanwhile, polling suggests that Trump’s failure to win over prosperous, well-educated voters is at least as big a problem.

The figures are startling. In Colorado, Romney edged out Obama among college graduates by 2 points. Trump is losing them by 30 points, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll earlier this month. In Virginia, Romney won voters with a household income of $50,000 or higher by 5 points. Trump is losing them by 14 points.

White women are another striking weak spot for Trump. He is running behind Romney’s performance with that group by 20 points in Colorado, 25 points in Virginia and 24 points in North Carolina, according to the Marist polls.

To be sure, there are caveats. The Marist polls were conducted during a low point for Trump’s campaign. If the GOP nominee rallies from here, the gap between his performance and that of Romney in 2012 could narrow.

Still, the figures are provoking scrutiny from figures in both parties who wonder if a more seismic shift is at hand.

“On a national basis, if [Democratic nominee] Hillary Clinton were ahead by 1 or 3 points, instead of 6 or 8 points, the map would look somewhat different than it does today,” said Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster who is also a columnist for The Hill. “That’s just the vagaries of this particular election.”

“On the other hand,” Mellman added, “there is no question that the demographics are changing, and they’ve been changing in a number of states — Virginia, Colorado, and there are other states you can point to as well.”

Meanwhile, several polls have found Trump winning no more than 1 percent of the black vote. President Obama dominated among African-Americans in 2008 and 2012, winning 96 percent of those voters in Ohio, for example.

The Marist polls earlier this month showed Trump in the same ballpark as Romney among Hispanics in several key states. Marist had Trump winning the support of 25 percent of Hispanics in Colorado, whereas Romney won 23 percent; and 34 percent of Hispanics in Florida, where Romney had won 39 percent.

Romney’s performance among Hispanics was widely seen as disastrous, however — and a far cry from the 44 percent of Hispanic voters that President George W. Bush won in his 2004 reelection race. To not improve on that standing is a major problem for Trump — especially when whites are a shrinking share of the electorate.

As recently as 2004, 86 percent of the votes for president in Colorado were cast by whites, according to exit polls. Just eight years later, that figure had fallen to 78 percent. In Arizona, the drop-off was 5 points, from 79 percent to 74 percent. The trend is expected to continue this year.

For the moment, even Republicans who are starkly critical of Trump, such as Ayres, are choosing to look on the bright side — cautiously — over the longer term.

“The Trump brand is very distinctive from the Republican brand,” Ayres asserted. “It remains to be seen what the long-term effects are. If that party turns and goes in a different direction, with a different kind of candidate, the damage might not be that long lasting.”

Tags Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Marco Rubio

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video