The Republican Party primaries are slowly winding down with Donald Trump being the clear presumptive nominee. Certainly, the Republican establishment is trying to find a way to thwart the possibility of a Trump nomination, nevertheless all indications point to Donald at the top of the ticket in the general election . Assuming the clear evidence of a nomination and the Republican establishment lining up behind Trump, then could he win the general election? More importantly, how could Trump possibly win considering his high unfavorability among women, African Americans, Latinos and minorities in general?
The U.S. road to the presidency is not about winning the popular vote since the Electoral College determines who ends up setting in the Oval Office. It is possible to lose the Electoral College despite wining the popular vote, an occurrence with precedent in recent U.S. history. Vice President Al Gore won the popular vote in the 2000 election but didn’t win the presidency . The road to Al Gore’s loss of the Electoral College involved the U.S. Supreme Court intervening to stop the Florida recount of ballots, thus awarding 25 electoral votes to George W. Bush and securing the White House for the Republicans. This split between popular and Electoral College votes has happened four times in the nation’s history, and the country might experience a similar outcome this year.
Trump’s road to the needed 270 electoral votes is more difficult than the one for potential Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton. The U.S. electoral map favors the Democrats and the road to the White House is a much more difficult path for the Republicans. In the 2012 elections, President Obama was able to secure 332 electoral votes, which was a decisive Democratic victory. At present, the electoral map shows the Democrats with an advantage of 247 votes in states that lean strongly in their direction while the Republicans count 206. The national map favors Democrats heading into the November general election, and key battle states will determine the next occupant of the White House.
The key battle states for the November election will be Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Colorado and Wisconsin and possibly Michigan. For any Republican to have a chance to make it to the White House come November, a combination of victories in these states is a must. If the Democrats are able to secure Florida then game over they win the White House. Also, if the Democrats win Ohio and another state while losing Florida they still end up in the White House. So, what needs to happen for Trump to win the needed 270 electoral votes?
Certainly, the Republican primaries and Trump in particular mobilized and brought to the polls a flood of new voters but the question, if it is sufficient to win the general election where the battle lines between the two parties move to the center. Trump has managed to rewrite the rules of campaigning with his unconventional approach, shooting from the hip and readiness to switch positions on a dime. Apart from few one liners on the campaign trail, Trump is a trademark and a media sideshow that is running for the presidency and the existing rules of campaigning have no relevance whatsoever.
Trump’s road to the White House hinges on a high turn out among white working-class men in key battle states with the hope that their wives, daughters and sisters might be convinced to vote in the same way. Indeed, Trump does not need to win a majority of white women’s votes, but if he can make a good showing then it might help close the gap somewhat. In the key battle states that witnessed massive loss of manufacturing and assembly line jobs, Trump is hoping not only to get Republican votes but also to influence working-class Democrats to cross the line and vote on the basis of racial-economic identity.
By problematizing immigration and blaming Latino immigrants for taking away white working-class jobs, Trump is hoping for Democrats to come to his side and cause a shift in America’s Rust Belt and vote for Republicans. Combine Trump’s appeal to white voters with a sophisticated Republican voter suppression strategy targeting African Americans and Latinos, then the possibility of winning the battle states might become a reality. Low voter turnout among minorities coupled with an increase turnout among Republican voters in the battle states, as well as a shift of working-class white Democrats in support of Trump might be the needed ticket to the White House.
Another element that might have an impact on the outcome is the selection of the vice president that will join Trump on the ballot. If Trump selects a woman or a Latino as his running-mate then this might cause additional shifts in key states that were counted for the Democrats and might solidify others that were on the edge. Certainly, the possibility of a divided Republican Party is still in the cards but if Trump’s nomination holds and a unified campaign emerges then adding a Latino or a woman might influence segments of the electorate that were not in play prior to this choice. What I am saying is that a Trump victory is not an impossibility like many think. In U.S. elections “race matters” and sharpening racial and xenophobic tensions has carried politicians into seats of power in the past, and Trump fits the mold and the possibility of reaching the White House is not farfetched. Hoping that people will exercise their better judgment in the aftermath of hard economic times is both naïve and foolish. Stopping Trump from reaching the White House requires a strategy that focuses on peeling away his white working-class base. The only way to accomplish this is to offer a real economic plan that can serve as an alternative to the easily packaged racism and xenophobia of Trump.