Why Trump Isn’t Moving the Map

Here’s a sober­ing sign of the state of our polit­ics: It’s be­com­ing very plaus­ible that Don­ald Trump, des­pite run­ning one of the worst pres­id­en­tial cam­paigns in mod­ern his­tory, could lose the pres­id­en­tial race by the same Elect­or­al Col­lege vote mar­gin as Mitt Rom­ney. A cam­paign that doesn’t be­lieve in tele­vi­sion ads, of­fers in­sults in­stead of policies, and lacks a full-fledged cam­paign staff, could end up per­form­ing nearly as well as a high-char­ac­ter can­did­ate who ran a re­spect­able los­ing cam­paign against Pres­id­ent Obama.


For all the talk that Hil­lary Clin­ton is ex­pand­ing the map, most of the Re­pub­lic­an-lean­ing states still re­main Trump’s to lose. Ari­zona will be a battle­ground state, giv­en its siz­able His­pan­ic pop­u­la­tion, but Trump is polling at 49 per­cent in a new CNN/ORC poll, 5 points ahead of Clin­ton. The in­flux of con­ser­vat­ive re­tir­ees is mit­ig­at­ing the im­pact of the state’s di­ver­si­fy­ing elect­or­ate. Mis­souri and In­di­ana will be more com­pet­it­ive than in 2012, but the states’ siz­able share of white work­ing-class voters will make them tough for Clin­ton to crack. In this month’s Mon­mouth polling, Trump led by 1 over Clin­ton in Mis­souri and by 11 in In­di­ana. “I’d be shocked if Clin­ton won in Mis­souri; they just hate her there,” one Demo­crat­ic strategist in­volved in Mis­souri races told Na­tion­al Journ­al.


Demo­crats hope sub­urb­an At­lanta voters could give Clin­ton an edge in Geor­gia, but the ra­cial po­lar­iz­a­tion in the state (a siz­able, heav­ily Demo­crat­ic black elect­or­ate com­bined with a deeply con­ser­vat­ive white elect­or­ate) makes it look a bit more com­pet­it­ive than it is. Only North Car­o­lina, a tra­di­tion­al battle­ground that Obama car­ried in 2008, looks like a smart bet to shift in­to the Demo­crat­ic column this Novem­ber.


For her part, Clin­ton is well po­si­tioned to sweep most of the battle­ground states—with Iowa and Ohio look­ing like the toughest Obama states to keep in the Demo­crat­ic column. Trump’s cam­paign talked a big game about con­test­ing Pennsylvania, but his poor per­form­ance in the Phil­adelphia sub­urbs is tak­ing the state off the map. Clin­ton and her al­lies stopped ad­vert­ising in the Key­stone State, even as the Trump cam­paign just an­nounced a new buy there. Team Trump isn’t spend­ing any ad money in Wis­con­sin and Michigan, two Rust Belt states that the party hoped to con­test in this elec­tion. The no­tion that Trump would ex­pand the map in­to re­li­ably blue states was al­ways a pipe dream.


As Jeremy Peters per­cept­ively poin­ted out in The New York Times, it’s al­most im­possible to en­vi­sion a true land­slide pres­id­en­tial elec­tion any­more—losers on the scale of Barry Gold­wa­ter (1964), George McGov­ern (1972), or Wal­ter Mondale (1984). Par­tis­an per­cep­tions are so locked in that it’s hard for any can­did­ate to cede the solidly Demo­crat­ic or solidly Re­pub­lic­an states. Even all the hype about Clin­ton’s chances in ruby-red Utah have noth­ing to do with her own polit­ic­al stand­ing there. It’s be­cause the GOP vote is splintered between Trump and two in­de­pend­ent can­did­ates.




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