There are two emerging post-election story lines about partisan battlegrounds that will mess up the neat red-state/blue-state maps political junkies carry around in their heads. The ultimate dimensions of the presidential contest will determine which one we are all gabbing about on November 9 — assuming we aren’t instead freaking out over hacked returns or civil unrest.
If Hillary Clinton builds on her current advantage and blows out to something approaching a double-digit lead in the national popular vote, she will likely win all the battleground states (loosely defined as including Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania). The big news might be that she could also carry Arizona and Georgia, which would be a sign that certain pro-Democratic demographic trends are arriving a bit earlier than expected. In this scenario, Texas could be close as well. An outcome like that would be a boon not only to Democrats, but to those Republicans who argue that any Trump-style white nationalist appeal is demographically doomed, even if a champion for it can be found who does not fatally alienate college-educated white women.
If, on the other hand, the presidential race stays reasonably competitive going down the stretch, it is looking more and more like Trump’s appeal to non-college-educated white voters and the angst he creates among minority and/or college-educated voters will reshape the traditional map. David Wasserman describes the change succinctly:
In 1996, Bill Clinton carried Iowa, Missouri and Ohio on his way to re-election, while losing Colorado, North Carolina and Virginia. Twenty years later, Hillary Clinton’s path to 270 electoral votes is more likely to do the opposite.
It’s not that complicated, really. The percentage of the electorate represented by non-college-educated white voters is 62 percent in Iowa and 53 percent in Ohio and Missouri (it’s also 57 percent in Wisconsin, which could win up being closer than we expect). It’s 42 percent in Colorado, 40 percent in North Carolina, and 37 percent in Virginia (it’s also 34 percent in Georgia, which is why that state is vulnerable to a big Democratic margin nationally). The more the balance of the electorate is composed of minorities rather than college-educated whites, the stronger the resistance to Trump seems to be.
We also are beginning, as Politico reports today, to see early voting trends that reinforce this new map:
In two must-win states for Trump, North Carolina and Florida, Republicans are clinging to narrow leads in the total number of mail-in ballots requested. Yet in both states, Clinton is ahead of President Barack Obama’s pace four years earlier — and the GOP trails Mitt Romney’s clip.
Any diminishment of the GOP’s mail-in ballot lead is a matter of concern for Republicans because Democrats typically dominate early in-person voting in both states, which will begin over the next 10 days.
Virginia does not really have early voting, and Colorado’s virtually all-mail-ballot system is not easy to assess at this stage. But North Carolina and Florida are behaving about as you might expect in the case of a small national lead for Clinton. So, too, are Iowa and Ohio:
[T]here are undercurrents that should cause concern for the Democratic nominee. The party’s early-vote performance in Midwestern states like Iowa and Ohio appears to be well behind its 2012 pace. And it could be a signal that, while Democrats may be gaining strength up and down the East Coast, they could be losing steam in states Obama won twice, like Iowa, Ohio and Wisconsin.
If that’s the way it ultimately shakes out, pro-Trump Republicans will have a better case to make that Trump had a path to victory via states Obama won twice, but was stabbed in the back by perfidious Establishment Republicans and knifed straight-on by the biased globalist media.
A more worrisome possibility is that if Clinton beats Trump in a particularly strong performance among minority voters in states like Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, we’ll hear more than the usual amount of odious BS about “voter fraud.” In that contingency, we can only hope such arguments are made peacefully after Trump has conceded to Clinton.