Saturday, June 19

The Shifting Map – The New York Times

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American politics can sometimes feel static. For the last two decades, the two parties have each won at least 45 percent of the vote in every presidential election, and a small number of swing states have determined the outcome.

But that surface stability has hidden a lot of churn: American politics has actually changed a lot lately.

Consider that Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice-presidential candidate, will be campaigning today in Texas, a state that President Trump won by nine percentage points four years ago and that Barack Obama lost by 16 points in 2012. This year, however, Texas is a swing state. “It’s a real race,” Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, told my colleague Jonathan Martin.

One of Harris’s three stops adds to the intrigue. In addition to Fort Worth and Houston, she will be visiting the smaller city of McAllen, in South Texas, where Joe Biden is struggling to do as well with Latino voters as Hillary Clinton did in 2016. If somebody had told you a few years ago that Trump would be doing better with Latino and Black voters in 2020 than in 2016 and yet still losing his re-election race, would you have believed it?

It’s happened because voters have become less polarized by race during Trump’s presidency. His appeals to white nationalism haven’t worked with most white voters. Since 2016, white voters, both with and without college degrees, have shifted toward the Democrats.

But Trump’s white nationalism hasn’t driven away many voters of color who didn’t already oppose him. Instead, his confrontational style and tough talk on crime and national security seem to have appealed to some Latino and Black voters, as The Times’s Nate Cohn notes. This data, Nate writes, “suggests a widening gap between the views of progressive activists and the rank-and-file of nonwhite voters.”

A large national poll released yesterday showed Trump winning 9 percent of Black voters this year, up from 8 percent in 2016, and 35 percent of Latino voters, up from 29 percent. If Trump manages to win re-election, support from a slice of Latino voters will probably be a key reason.

Of course, four days before Election Day, Trump is a substantial underdog, thanks to Biden’s broad strength: He’s winning women, younger voters and voters of color and holding his own among men, older voters and white voters.

Biden can win in an orthodox way, by flipping the three industrial states that were known as the blue wall until Trump won them in 2016: Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Or Biden can prevail by winning one or more Sun Belt states that no Democratic presidential candidate has won in more than two decades, like Arizona, Georgia and Texas. He could also all but clinch the presidency by winning Florida. And in a very close race, the two states that award electoral votes based partly on congressional-district results — Maine and Nebraska — may also matter.

The biggest takeaway is that you shouldn’t assume the future course of American politics is predetermined. After all, a Democrat could win Georgia and Texas this year, while a Republican wins part of the so-called blue wall. Imagine how much more could change in the next four or eight years.

For more: The Times’s Richard Fausset explains how Georgia turned into a battleground state.

The 2020 Campaign

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