Final Stretch: Dems Run Scared in Blue States

GOP nominee takes the fight to Democratic turf in Electoral College sprint, Clinton deploys Obama to save her campaign

With one day to go, Donald Trump isn’t just eyeing the traditional states to put together a Republican win for the White House. The GOP nominee is taking the fight to several states that have not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988 — but where the local dynamics favor his candidacy.

He’s even looking at the longest-voting Democratic state, Minnesota, which hasn’t voted to put a Republican in the White House since 1972. No other state has that kind of GOP drought.

This time the Democrat is a scandal-tainted retread who is having trouble energizing her base. Double digits in these states don’t look likely and upsets are possible.

Democrats usually laugh at such late plays for blue states. Not this time. These are the states that could provide Trump the surprise upset he may need to pull off a victory in the all-important Electoral College. President Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton planned emergency rallies in Michigan Saturday — a state where absentee voting is down in Democrat vote-rich Detroit, and up in rural areas that likely strongly favor Trump.

Such blue states were considered solidly Democratic earlier in the contest but have dynamics that favor the GOP nominee, and in some cases, Trump appears to be surging near at least a plurality of votes, giving him those states’ electoral votes.

The other surprise states possibly in play are New Mexico, Virginia, Wisconsin, and even potentially a second New England state — in addition to New Hampshire — Connecticut. Connecticut, still an unlikely outlier, last chose a Republican presidential candidate in 1988, picking George H.W. Bush over the liberal Democratic governor of Massachusetts Michael Dukakis.

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The fact Trump is in a position to contest these states at all is a sign of the strength of his candidacy.

Mitt Romney lost New Mexico and Michigan by 10 points in 2012, Virginia by 4, Wisconsin by 7, and Connecticut by a whopping 18 points.

Trump has also surged in the large, must-win states Romney failed to nab in 2012.

Late Sunday, political forecaster Nate Silver said Trump would win Florida. Late last week, University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato moved Ohio from “tossup” to “leans Republican” in his Crystal Ball projections.

With several key states looking arrayed for a Trump win, the GOP nominee needs the final pieces of the puzzle and may ultimately need one of these blue states, once considered unreachable, to win. Pundits have made plenty of noise about strong Democratic turnout in early voting in Nevada, a state key to most paths for the GOP nominee to get to 270 in recent weeks.

If Nevada falls off Trump’s map, an upset in one of these blue states would need to take its place for Trump to defeat Clinton.

The most catastrophic loss for the Clinton campaign’s chances of victory would be Michigan. In Michigan, the Trump campaign has been aggressive. Hoping to capitalize on Trump’s skepticism about poorly negotiated free trade deals like NAFTA, the campaign has been targeting union members.

In Macomb County, Michigan, the so-called birthplace of “Reagan Democrats,” Trump recruited NRA board member Ted Nugent to play the national anthem at a campaign rally in Sterling Heights, Michigan, on Sunday. The suburbs around Detroit are rich with Republicans, but the state hasn’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988.

On Sunday, Trump pitched hard there.

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“The unions love me,” Trump told the “massive” Michigan crowd.

Clinton has been scrambling to shore up Michigan Democrats. The state didn’t vote for her in March’s Democratic primary, instead choosing Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

There is good reason for Clinton to be nervous. She is only up 4 points in a recent Detroit Free Press poll and polling had shown her ahead by a similar margin ahead of the state’s March Democratic primary, which she ultimately lost to Sanders.

A poll conducted by a Republican consulting firm in the state last week found the contest tied.

The state has no early voting, so Clinton needs to ensure Trump does not build or retain any momentum in the final hours of the 2016 contest.

And Clinton’s numbers with black voters are soft. That poses a big threat in Detroit, where Democrats traditionally turn out massive numbers. Clinton has also struggled to generate enthusiasm nationwide with young voters.

In a desperate gambit to boost turnout with the traditionally Democratic constituency and save Michigan, President Obama will campaign for Clinton at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor Monday.

An outlier for Trump is Wisconsin. The Badger State surprised Republicans when it voted for liberal Democrat Michael Dukakis in 1988. Thus, the state last gave its electoral votes to a Republican when it voted to re-elect President Ronald Reagan in 1984.

The state shares many demographic similarities to Michigan. Both have significant rural populations, both have a high percentage of the state’s workforce employed in manufacturing, and both have large urban centers and state colleges with lots of traditionally Democratic voters.

There is not a lot of evidence about where the race in Wisconsin currently stands but Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, a Wisconsin native, says Trump is building momentum there. “Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin could quickly move onto our board,” Priebus said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

The Trump campaign sent Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate, to Waukesha County on Saturday to campaign with House Speaker Paul Ryan.

New Mexico and Virginia
New Mexico and Virginia could also undermine Clinton. Clinton is favored in those states, but if Trump overperforms, or Clinton underperforms, the two states that last voted for a Republican in 2004 could spell her doom.

It’s why Pence went to Las Cruces, New Mexico, on Wednesday. And on Sunday, Trump planned a return to Virginia for a rally in Leesburg.

A poll conducted by Hampton University last week found Trump ahead by 3 points in the Old Dominion State. It was the first survey in the entirety of the Trump-Clinton contest that found the GOP nominee ahead in the state.

A local polling outfit in New Mexico has shown Clinton downtrending there. Three consecutive surveys have shown Trump gaining ground in the state. On Oct. 11, Zia found Trump trailing Clinton by 10 points. By Oct. 24 that lead was cut in half to 5 and on Nov. 2 Zia found Trump had closed the gap to just 2 points.

Connecticut is not on the list of Republican National Committee or Trump campaign talking points. But Republicans say they noticed an increase in GOP voter registration numbers. The state has also been particularly hit hard by a dismal economic recovery, exacerbated by massive tax increases levied by its unpopular Democratic governor and companion Democratic General Assembly.

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Connecticut shed 5,200 jobs in September alone, according to numbers from the Connecticut Department of Labor.

And the state’s governor, liberal ideologue Dannel Malloy, is the most unpopular Democratic governor in the nation, according to a July poll by Morning Consult. Malloy had an unfavorable rating of 64 percent. Malloy is a regular surrogate for Clinton and the current chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.

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If Trump surges overall, watch Connecticut.

Will it be enough for Trump to win? J.R. Romano, Connecticut GOP chairman, said Republican Mitt Romney lost to President Obama by deep double digits in 2012 in the blue state.

Romney lost to Obama in a number of these states by double digits. But this time, there is no incumbent president to challenge and Trump has made significant inroads with non-traditionally GOP voters. This time the Democrat is a scandal-tainted retread who is having trouble energizing her base. Double digits in these states don’t look likely and upsets are possible.

“[It] is not going to happen again,” said Romano.

meet the author

Political reporter, LifeZette. Indiana University journalism grad. Boston U. business grad. Former Indiana, Alabama statehouse reporter, Daytona Beach editorial writer.

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