Elec­toral shades fade as voter un­hap­pi­ness comes into fo­cus

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

Don­ald Trump has done ex­actly what he promised: He has scram­bled the elec­tion map, putting into play states that have been out of the Repub­li­can Party’s reach for a gen­er­a­tion, but he also risks los­ing states that have long been GOP strongholds.

Since Mr. Trump chased the last of his ri­vals from the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial pri­mary con­tests in early May, polling has shown him within strik­ing dis­tance of likely Demo­cratic nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton in Michi­gan and New Jer­sey, and sta­tis­ti­cally tied with her in Penn­syl­va­nia. None of those states has voted for the Repub­li­can can­di­date in a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion since 1988.

Mr. Trump said the polls bear out his claim that he could bring a pop­ulist Repub­li­can mes­sage to vot­ers who tra­di­tion­ally have tuned out the party. He has hit a sweet spot among Amer­i­cans who are an­gry at Wash­ing­ton and who fear ris­ing im­mi­gra­tion rates and bad trade deals will leave them out of the new econ­omy.

The bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man’s brash style plays well with some dis­af­fected vot­ers but could be harm­ing the party with oth­ers. Some polling shows Mr. Trump with only slim leads in Ge­or­gia and Ari­zona, which have been re­li­ably Repub­li­can.

States that have been bat­tle­grounds — Vir­ginia, Florida, North Carolina and Ohio — re­main ra­zor-close, ac­cord­ing to polls con­ducted in the past month.

Pa­trick Murray, di­rec­tor of the Mon­mouth Uni­ver­sity Polling In­sti­tute, said the map shows many vot­ers aren’t par­tic­u­larly happy with ei­ther choice, leav­ing the elec­tion out­come un­cer­tain.

“We are go­ing to see Demo­cratic states with not a big Demo­cratic ad­van­tage and Repub­li­can states with not a big Repub­li­can ad­van­tage, and pur­ple states will stay pur­ple,” he said. “That is be­cause the dom­i­nant party in each state in­cludes a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of vot­ers that are not happy with the choice pre­sented to them by their party’s nom­i­nee.”

Mr. Trump will need to find more fer­tile ground if the Repub­li­can Party is to re­cap­ture the White House.

In the early 2000s, the elec­toral map was solidly blue along the West Coast, the North­east and the Up­per Mid­west, while the South and moun­tain re­gions were red.

Barack Obama cap­tured new ter­ri­tory for Democrats in 2008 by us­ing strong mi­nor­ity turnout and dis­sat­is­fac­tion with Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush to ex­pand into the mid-At­lantic, push deeper into the Mid­west and make gains in the moun­tain re­gions.

Mr. Trump has said he will re­verse those gains by fo­cus­ing on about 15 swing states and mak­ing ef­forts to win Demo­cratic strongholds New York and Cal­i­for­nia.

“We are go­ing to play heavy, as an ex­am­ple, in Cal­i­for­nia,” he said. “No other Repub­li­can, they wouldn’t even go to din­ner in Cal­i­for­nia. They wouldn’t do it.”

Polling sug­gests that win­ning Cal­i­for­nia or New York is still a stretch. The Golden State Poll this week gave Mrs. Clin­ton a 12-per­cent­age-point lead over Mr. Trump in Cal­i­for­nia, and a Si­enna poll put her up 21 points in New York.

Mr. Trump is likely to have bet­ter luck in the in­dus­trial Mid­west.

He re­ceived some good news last week af­ter The Detroit News and WDIV-TV re­leased a sur­vey that showed Mrs. Clin­ton with a 43 per­cent to 38.5 per­cent lead over Mr. Trump among likely vot­ers. Mr. Obama won the state by 16 points in 2008 and by 9 points in 2012.

The sur­vey found about half of in­de­pen­dent vot­ers in Michi­gan viewed Mr. Trump un­fa­vor­ably com­pared with al­most seven in 10 who viewed Mrs. Clin­ton in a neg­a­tive light.

“Trump puts Michi­gan in play,” said Saul Anuzis, a for­mer chair­man of the Michi­gan Repub­li­can Party. He sup­ported Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas in the pri­mary and now plans to back the party’s nom­i­nee.

“Michi­gan has a strong base of Rea­gan Democrats and tea party vot­ers that cross party lines,” Mr. Anuzis said. “Be­ing vir­tu­ally within the mar­gin of er­ror at this point bodes well for Trump.”

In New Jer­sey, where Mr. Obama won by 15 points in 2008 and 18 points in 2012, Mr. Trump is down by just 4 points in a Mon­mouth Uni­ver­sity Poll re­leased last week.

Mr. Murray, di­rec­tor of the Mon­mouth poll, said Mr. Trump is ben­e­fit­ing from hav­ing sewn up his party’s nom­i­na­tion quickly, giv­ing him a head start in con­sol­i­dat­ing the Repub­li­can Party af­ter a di­vi­sive pri­mary.

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