- The Washington Times - Monday, November 7, 2016

Donald Trump may have helped the Republican Party gain ground in Democratic strongholds like Michigan and cost the GOP in dependably red states like Utah and Texas — Tuesday’s results will tell — but analysts say they are skeptical of any claim the billionaire developer has remade the electoral map.

“I hesitate in drawing too many long-term conclusions based on what Trump does or did,” said Nathan Gonzales, of the Rothenberg and Gonzales Political Report, a nonpartisan group that tracks elections. “He is such a unique character in this movie that I don’t think anyone can really replicate him or what he has done. So I think we should take a deep breath before we have charted a brand new course for our political system.”

Mr. Trump began the race vowing to contest in deep-blue California and New York. But his campaign has instead played offense in the same rust-belt states that Mitt Romney, John McCain and George W. Bush all eyed.

And the unorthodox nominee has also played defense in Arizona and Utah — two states that could slip from Republicans’ grasp in this election, despite decades of fealty to the GOP in the Electoral College.

Democrats can maintain the White House by winning the traditional swing states and don’t need to encroach on Republican territory, while Mr. Trump needs to win back states that have twice gone for President Obama.

Kyle Kondik, of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said that it is hard to tell what sort of long-term impact Mr. Trump will have until the final results are in.

“I think it’s possible that Trump has accelerated changes that might have happened anyway,” Mr. Kondik said. “Given the racial gap in American politics, it seems likely that Democratic strength may have naturally shifted to the more diverse Sun Belt over time while Republicans might become more reliant on the whiter Midwest. We’ll see just how much change there is tomorrow, though.”

For his part, Mr. Trump insists he’s resonating in places where the GOP hasn’t been relevant for years — and he made a last-minute visit this weekend to Minnesota, which hasn’t voted for a Republican president since 1972.

“We went to Minnesota, where we are doing very well,” Mr. Trump said at a campaign rally Monday in North Carolina. “Everyone said, ‘Why Minnesota? That doesn’t go Republican.’ It is going Republican this year, I tell you.”

Mr. Trump also predicted wins in Pennsylvania and Michigan — states that have not voted Republican since George H.W. Bush carried the states in 1988.

“Michigan is in play. You know it hasn’t been in play for Republicans for 30-something years,” he said. “Michigan is in play because they are tired of watching their car factories be taken out. They are tired of losing their jobs to Mexico.”

Former Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia said Mr. Trump has reaffirmed political coalitions that were already in place and already emerging, including cementing the white working class’s drift toward the GOP. But he said that doesn’t rewrite the Electoral College math.

“I think President Obama has had a more lasting impact on the map than Trump because he has empowered voters who were not engaged to join the coalition, and instead of fighting for them we basically conceded those voters and went after alienated whites,” said Mr. Davis, who ran House Republicans’ campaign committee for two cycles.

Mr. Davis said the problem for Republicans is that white working class is “an increasingly small pool of fish.”

But he said he is not overly concerned that Mr. Trump has narrowed the GOP’s path to the White House in future elections, saying the silver lining in this race is Mrs. Clinton is unlikely to deliver on her promises if elected, creating an opening for the GOP in the future.

Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama spent Monday defending Rust Belt states of Michigan and Pennsylvania — both states that don’t have no-excuse early voting. That means almost all the votes in those states are still to be won on Tuesday.

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