- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 2, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Most pundits believe businessman Donald Trump’s path to the White House doesn’t depend on enlarging the Republican base of Hispanics or African American voters, but to capture more of the white, blue-collar Americans who stayed home in previous elections.

The presumption is many of these voters live in Rust Belt states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Illinois, which have been hit hard by the loss of manufacturing jobs. Mr. Trump’s promise to dismantle international trade deals – like NAFTA – puts these traditionally blue or purple states within striking distance of a Republican win.

But a new analysis done by the number crunchers at FiveThirtyEight question this theory.

“The good news for Trump is that nationally, there’s plenty of room for white turnout to improve,” wrote DaveWasserman, author of the study released on Thursday. “If non-Hispanic white had turned out at the same rate in 2012 that they did in 1992, there would have been 8.8 million additional white voters – far more than [President Barack] Obama’s 5 million vote margin of victory.

But before Democrats panic, here’s the catch, and it’s a doozy for Trump: These ‘missing’ white voters disproportionately live in states that won’t matter in a close presidential race,” Mr. Wasserman concluded.

Mr. Wasserman’s study looks at what would happen if Mr. Trump activated Ross Perot’s voters in 1992. That year, 70 percent of eligible non-Hispanics voted, compared with 64 percent in 2012. Mr. Wasserman notes the 19 percent national support Mr. Perot garnered was the primary result of activating the white vote, where like Mr. Trump, he railed against unfair trade deals, and promised to restore America’s greatness.

The end result is that if Mr. Trump were to match Mr. Perot’s success, in only three battleground states – Florida, Ohio, and Nevada would full activation of these missing voters be enough to win against Mrs. Clinton. That’s not to say those states aren’t significant, a Republican has to win Ohio to win the White House and Florida was the difference maker in 2000.

But in every other state, Mr. Trump would have to outpace Mr. Perot’s 1992 turnout in order to win.

Meanwhile, demographic shifts – the rise of the non-white vote – will cause headwinds for Mr. Trump. And, Mr.Wasserman notes, Latino turnout this election year may surge past previous in what would amount to a protest vote against Mr. Trump.

Still, there is some silver lining. Mr. Trump’s strength has been underestimated since he entered the race in June, defying all odds (and pundit predictions) that he would never become the Republican presidential nominee.

And then there’s the African American vote. This demographic turned out in record numbers to support President Barack Obama in both 2012 and 2008. It’s unknown whether they’ll be as motivated to cast their ballot come November with him not on top of the ticket. Erosion of the African American vote, combined with a weak Hispanic turnout, would shake things up in favor of Mr. Trump.

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