The supporters of Donald Trump believe he might awaken a sleeping giant — a cohort of white working-class voters that will propel him to the presidency. His more politically-minded opponents insist he will summon a colossal electoral disaster on Republicans that will not only secure the presidency for the Democrats but lose the GOP the House and Senate. I’ll let the Trumpkins make the case for their man. I want to look at the potential for Republican disaster here.
John McCain got roughly 60 million votes in 2008. Mitt Romney got roughly 61 million in 2012. Barack Obama secured 70 million and 65 million successively. This tells you two things. First, a Republican party in stasis could expect 60 million votes on election day — and those 60 million votes would not be enough to win the presidency. Its hopes rest on two possibilities: First, that it can enlarge its electorate, and second, that the Democratic electorate can be held to Obama’s 2012 total rather than its 2008 total — or less. So the GOP has to do better, and the Democrats probably have to do a little worse.
Trump poses a significant threat to the possibility of the Democrats doing worse. “Threat” may be too weak a word. We might as well call it a likelihood. Trump refusing to disavow the Ku Klux Klan this weekend is the biggest gift Hillary Clinton has gotten since a potentate gave her foundation a zillion dollars. One can already assume it will be at the heart of a $100 million ad buy in the states in which African-Americans play more than a nominal role in electoral politics.
It would not have seemed possible for a candidate to do better than Barack Obama with African-Americans, but the ability to paint Trump as an honorary Klansman may do the trick. In Obama’s reelection, a staggering 66 percent of African-Americans turned out at the polls. But there were states with significant black populations in which he didn’t bother to try and make up the gap. Perhaps not so this time for Hillary. Consider two that have been reliably in the Republican camp for decades, Mississippi and Georgia. Blacks make up 37 percent of the population of Mississippi, and 32 percent in Georgia. The latter went Democratic in 1992, and not since. If Hillary Clinton wants to put them in play, she can put them in play, and she will want to put them in play.
Hey, how about Louisiana, 34 percent African-American? It elects statewide Democrats; just did so, in fact, for governor. Trump potentially puts it in play negatively. At the very least, he would have to fight for these 34 electoral votes. If he loses any one of those states, and Georgia especially, Trump’s path to the presidency is all but impossible.
This is to say nothing of the effect on states with black populations that might tip to the GOP under the right circumstances. Virginia went for Obama in 2008 and 2012, but his margin shrank there and that could mean hope for a Republican. North Carolina went for Obama in 2008 and then flipped back to the GOP by the tiniest of margins in 2012. With a population 20 pecent black, it will flip back. And Virginia, with 22 percent, will be a lost cause.
To make up for black turnout approaching 70 percent that might be uniformly Democratic and win these states, Trump would have to resort to supernatural means to find enough supposedly missing and new voters.
I haven’t yet mentioned the growing Hispanic/Latino vote, of which Mitt Romney secured 27 percent in 2012 — the fact that led the much-maligned GOP “autopsy” in 2013 to argue it had to reverse the downward trend or be consigned to perpetual presidential oblivion. The autopsy never imagined the GOP would field a candidate whose hostility to immigration has scored him an 80 percent unfavorability rating with Hispanics nationwide.
If we took that number as the floor for the Republicans in November, meaning that Trump would get 20 percent rather than 27 percent of the Hispanic vote, he could simply kiss New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado goodbye. Colorado was trending Democratic but now seems to be trending Republican, while Arizona has voted Republican in the past four elections—and a good Republican candidate might be able to put New Mexico in play. If Democrats win Arizona, that’s another 11 electoral votes gone—and at the very least Hillary could again make Trump fight for it and, therefore, force resources to be spent there that could be used to put pressure on her elsewhere.
But I figure that 80 percent number is low. By the time Trump would run in November, he’d be lucky to get 10 percent of the Latino vote, and then that’s all she wrote. A decline for the GOP in the Latino vote from 27 to 20 would mean about a million votes lost nationally. From 27 to 10 would mean about two and a half million.
So follow me so far. We’re talking about the possibility of Hillary getting more of the Obama African-American vote and far more of the Latino vote than Obama. And the words “gender” and “gap” have yet to come up.
One must also consider that Trump could not depend upon getting the Romney votes, since the chance a statistically significant number of Republicans would not vote for him under any circumstances would show up in his tally. If that number were to be 2 percent, that would add up to 1.2 million missing votes.
All this means a Trump candidacy would begin far deeper in the hole than any Republican candidate since Barry Goldwater, and any Democratic candidate since Walter Mondale.
I’ve probably bollixed up some of the math here, and you can let me know on Twitter if I have and I’ll correct it. But if Trumpkins can figure out a way Trump gets not only the four million new votes to catch up to the Democrats but another four or five million to make up for the votes he has already lost himself by his despicable rhetoric and conduct, then by all means, let them try. But the portrait I’ve painted here shows, I think, just how suicidal for the Republican party a Trump nomination would be.