Trump’s path to victory depends on surge of white men

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump needs a surge of white working-class voters to beat Hillary Clinton in November.

Clinton has significant leads over Trump among minority voters and women, and is handily defeating him with white college-educated women.

{mosads}That puts pressure on Trump to win white men like no other candidate in recent history.

Trump believes his anti-trade, anti-immigration message will be popular with white, working-class voters in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and that it could help him compete in other Rust Belt states such as Michigan and Wisconsin.

His electoral strategy revolves around winning Pennsylvania, something the Republican nominee hasn’t done since 1988. Michigan and Wisconsin have also been reliably Democratic states for decades.

Trump would seem to face tough prospects. 

A new Franklin & Marshall poll of Pennsylvania voters released Thursday found him facing an 11-point deficit to Clinton, 49 percent to 38 percent.

The survey shows Trump beating the Democratic nominee in Pennsylvania 53 percent to 31 percent among whites without college degrees, but only 45 percent to 35 percent among white men.

Clinton leads Trump in the poll among college-educated whites, 58 percent to 28 percent. She also leads among white women, 57 percent to 29 percent.

GOP strategists say Trump needs to close that gap by driving white men to the polls in numbers that haven’t been seen in recent election cycles.

“He will need somewhere in the 67 percent to 68 percent range of the white vote,” Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster, said of Trump.

Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist who worked on Arizona Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, thinks Trump has to win 63 percent of the white vote, a higher share than 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney won.

“He needs to perform 4 percent better among white voters than Romney did,” said O’Connell, who predicts white voters will make up around 70 percent of November’s electorate.

Romney won 59 percent of white voters four years ago, but overall turnout for the demographic was depressed compared to prior elections.

White voters made up 73.7 percent of the electorate in 2012, down from 79 percent in 2004, according to the Census Bureau.

Non-Hispanic whites cast 98 million votes in 2012 — 2 million fewer than were cast in 2008.

The non-white vote four years ago totaled 32.9 million, well above the average of 28.8 million for the 2012, 2008 and 2004 presidential years, according to the Census Bureau.

The white vote slumped in 2012, while turnout among black and Hispanic voters hit records as President Obama sought reelection. According to the Census Bureau, 17.8 million blacks voted that year, along with 11.2 million Hispanics and 3.9 million Asians.

No presidential candidate has won more than 66 percent of the white vote since Ronald Reagan’s landslide election in 1984, when he lost only the state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia.

McCain won 55 percent of the white vote in 2008, while then-President George W. Bush won 58 percent in 2004. 

Demographic changes also mean the percentage of white voters in the electorate is unlikely to be as high this year as in the Reagan era, or possibly even four years ago.

Ayres predicts the electorate will consist of 69 percent white voters and 31 percent non-white voters. 

Trump’s anti-immigration, anti-trade rhetoric has proved popular with blue-collar voters, and Ayres says Trump could “very easily” win 69 percent of non-college educated white men.

But reaching that threshold overall could be difficult because of his deficit with women.

A Washington Post survey from late June showed Clinton leading Trump among college-educated white women, 57 percent to 35 percent.

The Clinton campaign for months has been seeking to buttress that advantage with advertisement highlighting Trump’s comments referring to some women as pigs.

One ad shows children watching a stream of Trump’s controversial comments on television, including remarks directed toward Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly after the heated first GOP debate, when he said that she had blood coming from her eyes and “her wherever.”

It’s possible that white voters and white men will make up a larger proportion of the electorate in 2016, which would bolster Trump’s chances.

An average of the past three CNN/ORC polls shows Trump with 52.66 percent of the white vote and Clinton with 71 percent of the non-white vote.

When those percentages are applied to the voter turnout numbers compiled by the Census Bureau for the 2012 presidential election, Clinton is estimated to win the popular vote by about 2.5 million votes.

Trump does have close to a 2-1 advantage over Clinton among non-college educated white voters in the CNN/ORC polls, but would need an extra 8 million people in that demographic to vote on Election Day to make up the gap.

The other thing that would help Trump, in terms of demographics, would be if turnout among African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians reverted to the average of the past three presidential elections.

If that happened, Trump might need a smaller surge of 3 million white men to show up at the polls.

That’s not out of the question, considering that the white vote decreased by 2 million voters between 2008 and 2012 — a drop analysts attributed to Romney’s lack of appeal with the working class.

Republicans say the drop-off in white working class voters was the worst in deep red states that Romney won easily, but it also affected the tally in Ohio, a pivotal battleground.

Tags Donald Trump Hillary Clinton John McCain
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