- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 28, 2016

Donald Trump has a shot at reconfiguring the electoral map — putting traditionally blue states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin into play, with his working-class, industrial appeal.

But, in order to win in November, he’s going to need the support of the #NeverTrump crowd in the nation’s suburbs. Without it, he’ll certainly lose to Hillary Clinton, even if he does win the white, blue-collar vote by numbers never seen before in the Republican Party.

“I’m not prepared to say Trump can’t win my state,” said G. Terry Madonna, the director of the Franklin and Marshall College Poll in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “But in order to do so, he’s going to have to marry his white-working class support with the stop Trump movement as quickly as possible.”

Many pollsters believe Mr. Trump’s path to the White House, if he becomes the Republican nominee, is by maximizing blue-collar support across the Rust Belt and into states in the northeast, like Pennsylvania, where Republicans have traditionally lagged. Mr. Trump’s campaign has said they believe they can flip at least Pennsylvania, Michigan, Maryland and Delaware into red states.

Based on preliminary data, it’s not out of the question.

Before the Pennsylvania primary this week, more than 61,000 Democrats switched to the Republican Party, and about 31,000 independents or new voters registered with the GOP. By comparison, only 43,000 Republicans switched to Democrats.

The driving force behind the registration surge was excitement for Mr. Trump’s candidacy, with a substantial proportion of the enrollments coming from blue-collar working-class counties, said Mr. Madonna, who analyzed the data. Republican registration surges have been echoed in Massachusetts and Nevada, and most states, including Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, have seen record voter turnouts on the Republican side.

Mr. Trump is energizing a certain base within the American electorate that has been long ignored by both traditional Republican candidates and Democrats alike — the blue-collar, white worker. Many of these voters have been lured into the political process for the first time, or the first-time in years, by Mr. Trump, who speaks directly to their economic woes in non-political speak and promises the hopeful vision of Making America great again.

Heading into this year’s election — at a time when Mrs. Clinton is underperforming among the white-middle class vote — some pollsters and strategists believe if Republicans were to only increase their share of white voters by a few percentage points, they could win the popular vote without having to boost numbers among Hispanic and black voters.

Yes, the white vote is becoming less influential as the voting populous becomes more diverse, but it still holds considerable sway, especially in the Rust Belt states. Whites will consist of at least 76 percent of the voting base in Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

According to an analysis by the Atlantic, Mr. Trump could win the Rust belt states — without improving on any other demographic — by holding his opponent to less of the working-class white vote than any Democrat has won since 1988.

Yes, that’s a narrow path, but given Mr. Trump’s potential appeal to new and crossover voters — and a general lack of enthusiasm for Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy among Democrats — it’s plausible.

“In Iowa, if all else remained constant, [Trump] could win if he held the Democratic nominee to 47 percent or less of the vote among working-class whites, not much different from the party’s recent low point of 48 percent in 2004,” The Atlantic reported. “In Ohio, Trump could win by pushing the Democrat even slightly below the recent low point of 40 percent that [President Barack] Obama notched in 2012.”

Overall, if Mr. Trump were to capture 65 percent or more of the white vote, he would win the nomination, pollsters say. In 2012 Mitt Romney won 59 percent.

In order to capture this high percentage he needs to not only win the blue-collar voters, but the #Never Trump conservatives too. For the majority of the Republican base, not just a plurality of it, needs to vote in the general election to have any shot against Mrs. Clinton.

Mr. Trump needs to win the Republican vote in the suburbs of Washington DC, Columbus, and Milwaukee — all areas where he’s lost in the primary to #NeverTrump voters.

By giving a voice to the working-class by railing against trade deals and building a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border, Mr. Trump has also repelled the Republican white elites.

“Trump certainly seems to have a shot at moving parts of the Rust Belt, it’s just the people who are going to move against him in the other states is where he has the problem,” said Henry Olsen, a leading conservative electoral analyst and senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. “His net gain in blue-collar voters will be offset by net losses.”

The first step in turning Mr. Trump’s numbers around is for Party elites to finally coalesce around Mr. Trump, Mr. Olsen said.

For example, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s endorsement could move the needle in Wisconsin, and John Kasich’s support could solidify Mr. Trump’s numbers in Pennsylvania and Ohio. So far both men have been solidly anti-Trump.

The #NeverTrump movement may not be strong enough to deny Mr. Trump the nomination, but it is strong enough to deny him the presidency.

Kelly Riddell is a columnist for The Washington Times.

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