Juan Williams: Trump bets it all on whites

Juan Williams: Trump bets it all on whites

Anyone mapping out Donald TrumpDonald TrumpMajority of Americans in new poll say it would be bad for the country if Trump ran in 2024 ,800 bottle of whiskey given to Pompeo by Japan is missing Liz Cheney says her father is 'deeply troubled' about the state of the Republican Party MORE’s road to victory in November’s presidential election has to start at this week’s Republican National Convention, by tracking his success in igniting support from white, working-class voters. 

With the selection of Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceVirginia couple gets home detention in Jan. 6 case Officers' powerful Capitol riot testimony underscores Pelosi's partisan blunder RealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump MORE, the socially conservative governor of Indiana, as his running mate, Trump is demonstrating that he has no inclination to reach out to women, or to the growing number of minority and immigrant voters. Instead, he is betting everything on driving turnout among white voters — a declining segment of the electorate — to levels unseen in modern American history.

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The GOP is already a white, southern-based party. Trump’s vision for the future is to have the party expand its territory among the white working class in the industrial Midwest — beginning at the convention in Ohio.

“It is absolutely the case that in 2012, there were a little over 2 million fewer white non-Hispanics that voted compared to 2008…They sat it out,” Jason Johnson, an aide to Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Defense: Senate panel votes to scrap Iraq war authorizations | Police officer fatally stabbed outside Pentagon ID'd | Biden admin approves first Taiwan arms sale Senate panel votes to repeal Iraq war authorizations America's pandemic of COVID hypocrisy MORE (R-Texas), told the AP earlier this year.

During the primaries, Trump’s strategy for rallying that base was to relentlessly attack free trade and illegal immigrants. He called for building a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico and banning foreign Muslims from entering the country. 

That political messaging succeeded with a third of Republican voters nationwide who had no problem with Trump’s politically incorrect talk about Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and people who bring drugs and crime into the country.

But as Trump’s campaign looks beyond this convention, the nominee needs stronger medicine to get white working-class men to the voting booth in unprecedented numbers.

The new tonic set to be unveiled at the convention includes a heavy negative focus on Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBriahna Joy Gray: Progressives like Turner should reconsider running as Democrats Biden wishes Obama a happy birthday Ohio special election: A good day for Democrats MORE.

The convention will feature speakers questioning the former secretary of State’s competence by condemning her for failing to prevent the death of four Americans in the 2012 attack at the consulate in Benghazi. Clinton will also be pilloried as in sympathy with Black Lives Matters protestors. 

Meanwhile there will be full-throated support for Trump as the police-supporting, law-and-order candidate. And there will be guilt-by-association with presentations focused on the complicated sexual history of Clinton’s husband, former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonAzar regrets Trump didn't get vaccinated on national TV New spotlight on secretaries of state as electoral battlegrounds Bipartisan infrastructure win shows Democrats must continue working across the aisle MORE.

Trump’s idea is to make anti-Clinton attacks the main agenda for right-wing talk radio, internet and cable television. His campaign needs the help because Trump has been slow to start running TV ads. He has no significant campaign operation in swing states. 

The target audience for these messages will not be the classic undecided suburban female voters. It will be blue-collar, white men who have not voted in recent elections. 

Trump’s approach “opened the door to assertions of white identity and resentment in a way not seen so broadly in American culture in over half a century, according to those who track patterns of racial tension and antagonism in American life,” the New York Times reported last week.

The Times wrote that Trump’s campaign has “electrified the world of white nationalists,” and reported that one social media tracking company found “almost 30 percent of the accounts Mr. Trump retweeted…followed one or more of 50 popular self-identified white nationalist accounts.”

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTo cut poverty and solve the labor shortage, enhance the Earned Income Tax Credit Wisconsin GOP quietly prepares Ron Johnson backup plans RealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump MORE (R-Wis.) has called out Trump for engaging in racism by bashing an Indiana-born federal judge of Mexican heritage as being incapable of properly handing a lawsuit against Trump because the judge is “Mexican.”  

But can this racial strategy work? Let’s go to the numbers. 

Last week, a New York Times/CBS poll had Trump tied with Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee. Each had 40 percent support. Those figures indicated that Clinton had dropped about three percentage points in the aftermath of scathing criticism from the FBI director, James Comey, over her use of a private e-mail server while secretary of State.

Now, going into the conventions, the question is whether Trump can build on his 40 percent via white identity politics.

In the last ten presidential elections, the GOP nominee has only gotten over 60 percent of the white vote twice – Ronald Reagan in 1984 and George H.W. Bush in 1988. Trump needs to surpass that high mark, while not dropping below Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain to produce 'Don't Sweat the Small Stuff' Lifetime movie starring Heather Locklear An August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done Meghan McCain on Pelosi, McCarthy fight: 'I think they're all bad' MORE and Mitt Romney’s dismal levels of support among blacks and Latinos in 2008 and 2012 respectively.

The difficulty of executing this racially charged strategy has been debated among Republicans for some time now.

“Republicans … must find a way to appeal to more nonwhite voters. If the GOP nominee in 2016 wins the same share of the white vote that Mr. Romney did—59%—then he or she will need 30% of nonwhites to be elected,” wrote GOP pollster Whit Ayres in the Wall Street Journal last year. “That is far greater than the 17% of the nonwhite vote that Mr. Romney won in 2012, or the 19% John McCain won in 2008, or the 26% George W. Bush won in 2004.”

Ayres added: “Looked at another way, if the Republican nominee only manages to hold Mr. Romney’s 17% among nonwhites, then he or she will need 65% of whites to win. Only one Republican has reached that mark in the past half century: Ronald Reagan in his 49-state landslide sweep in 1984. Even George W. Bush’s comfortable re-election in 2004 with 58% of whites and 26% of nonwhites would be a losing hand in 2016.”

By giving Trump an official seal of approval this week in Cleveland, the GOP is signing on to this high risk, race-based strategy for the November election.  

Win or lose, Trump is defining the party as interested only in the votes of whites.

Juan Williams is an author and political analyst for Fox News Channel. His latest book, "We The People: The Modern-Day Figures Who Have Reshaped and Affirmed the Founding Fathers' Vision of America" published by Crown, is out now.