A series of new polls have Democrats optimistic in Georgia and Arizona. In Arizona, a new PPP (D) survey finds Trump with a narrow 45-41 lead over Trump. In Georgia, two local polls have Trump ahead by only 3 and 4 points.
At first glance this might indicate that what Republicans initially worried about, Trump’s weakness among minorities and suburban women, is being proven true. If Trump can barely carry these reliably red but demographically changing states how can he hope to win blue battleground states?
Except, these polls indicate exactly nothing. That’s right. Nothing. Firstly, Trump has a lead in both states. Secondly, 40 to 45 percent has historically been the floor of recent statewide Democratic candidates in Georgia and Arizona. Keep in mind Democrats have been hot on flipping Georgia since 2008 and Democrats have been salivating over Arizona since 2012.
Just look at the recent performances of statewide Democrats in Arizona and Georgia since 2008. The Democratic candidate for Governor in Arizona hit 42 percent. In 2012 Obama garnered 44 percent and their Senate candidate 46 percent. In 2014, Democrats hit 41 percent for Governor. In Georgia a similar pattern has followed. Democrats hit 42 percent for Governor in 2010, Obama hit 45 percent in 12 and their highly touted recruits for Senate and Governor in ’14 hit 44 and 45 percent.
It’s also important to keep in mind that polling in both states is notoriously difficult for the simple reason both states are demographically diverse. Polls out of Arizona in 2014 had the GOP and Democratic candidate for Governor tied until a month before the election. In Georgia, polling struggled even more. Though Republicans won all statewide races by at least 8 points, polling had Democrats ahead in both the Senate and gubernatorial contest.
Issues over the individual polls and their sample populations aside (they were bad), these recent polls do not indicate Trump is in trouble in either state. It would be nice to be ahead by a little more in both states in early polls but Trump never was going to run away with either state. Georgia has a large black, Democratic base and Arizona a large, Hispanic base.
Democrats anticipate Trump turning out Hispanics in massive numbers in Arizona and blacks to come out in force for Clinton. They cite statistics showing Hispanic turnout has lagged in Arizona (it has) and black turnout is only getting bigger in Georgia (it is). But, what they forget is that for every Hispanic or black voter that turns out it is countered by a new white voter.
Both states are heavily defined by their racial voting patterns. In 2014, exit polls showed whites went heavily (74 percent) for Republican candidates in Georgia. Not even 90 percent and above support among blacks could make up for the massive deficit Democrats suffered from among rural and suburban whites. Until this is turned around Democrats cannot hope to win the state. In Arizona, exit polling was not available but precinct and county level data indicates Hispanic turnout was above 2010, below 2012, and heavily Democratic. But, this was outweighed by GOP strength in Maricopa County.
There is little evidence Trump’s candidacy will break these patterns. He is not a perfect fit for the modern GOP coalition in Georgia (where he seems in greatest danger) of evangelicals, suburban and rural whites. Hispanic turnout could threaten him in Arizona. But this assumes voters in both states find Clinton palatable. The best assumption is probably not.
The theory that voters will back the son, daughter, aunt (or in Clinton’s case, wife) has already been tested in Georgia. Jason Carter ran for Governor and Michelle Nunn ran for Senate. Jimmy Carter was a former Governor of the state and Sam Nunn was an influential US Senator who hailed from down south. Both Carter and Nunn tanked in the rural areas their family once dominated. Good luck changing that Clinton.
Clinton is an especially bad fit for Georgia. She’s toxic to white men and her run to the left has robbed her of appeal in the Georgian suburbs. In Arizona, her embrace of amnesty might work well with Hispanics, but again, it makes her ability to reach white suburbs almost impossible.
So, take a chill pill. Democrats might be able to flip one or both states in the future but they need at least another four years of demographic changes, a better candidate and an especially flawed GOP nominee to make it happen. Trump is many things but he is not as damaged or toxic as Democrats assume in either state. They will find that out this November.