Column: For Democrats, voter turnout versus voter apathy is the biggest challenge facing them in 2016.
By Hamza Khan
WASHINGTON, DC: In recent days, much has been made about Hillary Clintons’s sliding national poll numbers and the state of the presidential race against Republican nominee Donald Trump.
Clinton originally had double-digit leads in several polls following the Democratic National Convention over the summer. Furthermore, wildly unstable public behavior by Trump that included attacks in poor taste against the grieving parents of a fallen US Muslim soldier greatly harmed his public image, further dragging down his poll numbers.
But with the summer now over and with less than 50 days until election day, more and more polls are showing that Clinton’s lead has narrowed or reversed itself nationwide, and in several key swing states. Since September began, Clinton has been faced with challenges of her own, though their impact is waning in light of the most recent ISIS-led domestic terror attacks in Minnesota and New York.
Generally, as the summer before a presidential election comes to a close, voters who previously polled as undecided but generally toe their party line on election day finally make up their mind to support their party’s candidate. The same holds true for independent voters who tend left or right. Now that these previously hidden partisans have cast aside their clumsy disguises, the presidential race has begun to tighten, though not in ways that favor either candidate, per se.
Like the past two elections, this one too, hinges on whether Democrats can motivate their coalition of educated whites, minorities, women and millennials to rouse from their TV couches and dinner tables to go and vote on election day. As of right now, it seems just enough of these constituencies plan on doing just that.
One key factor for the race to the White House is that America has become more diverse in the past three elections. In 2004, John Kerry lost the election when it became clear that white blue-collar voters in Ohio were not in the Blue column. President Obama went on to win Ohio in both his election campaigns, and the state was viewed as a critical battleground.
This time around, the Clinton campaign has a victory map that doesn’t necessarily include Ohio’s 18 electoral votes. That is because of the infusion of diverse, non-white, educated voter bases in North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico and Florida. In a scenario where Clinton loses both Florida and Ohio, she could go on to win in the swing states of New Mexico, Colorado and Virginia and thereby win the presidency—all three are currently polling well right now for Team Hillary.
On the other hand, Trump would need to win states whose newly minted #DiversityVoters he’s managed to offend in a summer of pandering to the aptly dubbed “basket of deplorables” that has become his base. He would need to win at least three Obama states: Ohio, North Carolina and Florida — just to remain competitive. Trump has a narrow lead in each of those states, but even with those swing states trending his way, Trump would need to win Virginia. Unfortunately for him, Virginia’s northern suburbs are home to some of the most concentrated Muslim and non-white voting populations in the country, as well as some of the most liberal and well-educated— constituencies that Trump has worked well beyond the Republican primaries to alienate.
Should Trump lose Florida, his chances to become president would begin to evaporate. The last Republican to win the White House without Florida was in 1924. South Florida’s minority and New American heavy population centers have been slow to mobilize for Clinton, but that will likely change as it becomes clearer to them that a Trump presidency is no longer a fantasy. Furthermore, North Carolina, which broke for President Obama in 2008 but then reverted to Team Red in 2012, has also grown more diverse. It will be interesting to see whether resources are invested by Democrats into mobilizing New American and minority voters are in Raleigh and other metropolitan areas in that state.
In most scenarios, Clinton wins the White House, with various degrees of comfort. Trump’s chances are done in by his own inept bungling of his campaign and its outreach to voters who don’t hate immigrants, women and minorities. It is not likely that Democrats will flip the House of Representatives, and the outlook for the Senate is also looking stormy. That being said, Clinton’s expertise and experience will more than likely keep the nation afloat until the midterms, should she win this November. Under a President Hillary Clinton, in two years it would not be a surprise to see at least one of the chambers of Congress end up with a Democratic majority.
One challenge facing Clinton is in mobilizing young voters — a key constituency that made up the difference in voter turnout that put Obama over the top in 2008. In both of Obama’s elections, his GOP opponents earned roughly 59 million votes. Meanwhile in 2008 Obama earned 67 million votes and in 2012 62 million votes.
For Democrats, voter turnout versus voter apathy is the biggest challenge facing them in 2016. Meanwhile, Trump’s base of blue collar white voters remains eager to vote him into office. Whether or not Democrats can convince Obama’s millennial voters that their dream of an accepting America is at risk will have a major role to play in November. All in all though, Clinton can and will likely win in November.
Hamza Khan is a political activist and consultant based in Maryland. He has advised congressional and senatorial candidates on outreach to minority voters, and has spoken widely to the international press about the US presidential elections. He is a columnist for The American Bazaar. You can follow him on Twitter: @HamzaSKhan