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Trump is Not Enough: To Maximize 2016 Opportunity, Democrats Should Rely on Turnout, Not Triangulation

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In a potential general election presidential matchup between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Democrats start at an Electoral College advantage in large part due to the potential voting power and candidate preferences of the Latino electorate. For example, as leading observersand recent polling underscores, Florida is moving towards the Democratic column due largely to the combination of Trump’s nativism and Latino voters’ movement towards Democrats.

Today, a new column from leading electoral forecaster Stuart Rothenberg expands on the theme of the Democrats’ Electoral College advantage, throwing cold water on the “missing white Republican voter” theory and making the case that the combination of Trump’s candidacy and the changing demographics of the electorate could add up to a big win for Hillary Clinton. However, several other leading voices add a note of caution for Democrats. While the fundamentals of the election look strong for Democrats, realizing this potential opportunity will only be possible if  Democrats up-and-down the ballot lean into issues such as immigration, make a sustained investment in registration and turnout, and in the process energize the Latino voting community and other portions of the rising American electorate.

See below for key excerpts from voices assessing the opportunity and lessons for Democrats and progressives this cycle:

Clinton Starts with a Decisive Advantage” – Leading electoral forecaster Stuart Rothenberg’s new column in Roll Call:

“Given the makeup of the likely electorate, state voting patterns, the images of the candidates, the deeply fractured GOP and the early survey data, Clinton starts off with a decisive advantage in the contest … Trump’s problems start with the electorate’s demographics, though you wouldn’t know it given the chatter about his appeal with working-class white voters … [but] most whites without a college degree are reliable Republicans, not a pool of new voters — or Democrats — for Trump to turn out in November. Trump’s appeal with those voters does not alter the election’s arithmetic.

…Given the changing electorate and Trump’s very limited appeal among Hispanic and non-white voters, he faces very serious obstacles. Yes, Trump says he loves Hispanics and they love him. But the numbers don’t lie. He is hugely unpopular with them, with high negatives — a 77 percent unfavorable rating among Hispanics, according to Gallup — that suggest he will do worse than Mitt Romney did in 2012 among that voting group … So, don’t get caught up in all the white working-class chatter or the hesitation to call the race what it is. It isn’t close now, and it may never get all that close. Hillary Clinton is the clear and undeniable early favorite in this race, and a double-digit win would not be surprising.”

“Trump Won’t Be Enough” – In The Week, Paul Waldman interviews Latino Decisions principal Sylvia Manzano about the imperative of Democrats investing in Latino turnout:

“Latino Decisions pollster Sylvia Manzano cautions that even the spectacle of Trump won’t be enough for Democrats to get the Latino vote out unless they also invest heavily in a grassroots organizing effort to register voters and push them to the polls. ‘Arizona is a good example that shows that demographics plus anti-Latino policy and rhetoric do not guarantee Democratic wins,’ she says. ‘After a famously antagonistic policy agenda (also characterized by bombastic talk and big personalities) and SB 1070 passed, [Gov. Jan] Brewer won re-election, and [Sheriff Joe] Arpaio wins re-election time and again. The state legislature became more Republican, and the GOP now holds all statewide offices. That happened as the Hispanic electorate grew.’

Manzano also points to the parties’ history in California as an object lesson, but not the one people usually draw. ‘I often hear people say that Donald Trump will lose because he is the ‘Pete Wilson’ in this election. People forget that [in 1994] Pete Wilson won (ugly ads and all), and his favored Prop 187 passed too. California turned blue a few years later, after extensive investment and organization by Democrats, grassroots groups, and others.’”

It’s entirely possible that with two well-known personalities at the top of the party tickets, few voters are going to change their minds over the next six months. That would mean that the race turns on which side gets more of its voters to turn out. There is evidence that in some places, Latinos are registering to vote at unusually high rates; there is also anecdotal evidence of immigrants rushing to finalize their naturalizations so they can vote against Trump. It’s clear that Trump, with his talk of border walls and deportations and his explicit appeals to white grievance, has done all he can to encourage Latinos to vote Democratic. But if Democrats want to seize the opportunity he has delivered to them, they still have to put in a lot of work.”

Against Trump, Clinton Should Resist The Temptation Of Triangulation” – Katrina vanden Heuvel writes in her Washington Post syndicated column:

“Given Trump’s historic unpopularity, some will argue that Clinton should tack to the center in an effort to win over disaffected Republicans and independents. Already, there have been reports that Clinton ‘is looking for ways to woo Republicans turned off by the brash billionaire,’ and her backers have reached out to Republican donors seeking their support. Yet while the Democratic establishment may be tempted to wage a campaign of ‘triangulation’ — the centrist strategy that Bill Clinton made famous in the ’90s — moving to the center now would be a lousy idea.

There is no guarantee that pivoting to the middle would attract a significant number of Republicans, who generally loathe Clinton, but it would almost certainly dampen enthusiasm among progressives … At the presidential level, the strategic calculus should be straightforward. Democrats have demographics on their side due largely to their massive advantage with minorities and women, who make up a growing share of the electorate. But as progressive activist and pundit Van Jones has argued, Trump ‘can’t be beaten by assuming that demographics are going to save us.’ Instead, Clinton’s fate will depend on her ability to ensure that large numbers of Democratic voters vote. For that reason, her top priority should be maximizing turnout among the constituencies that are most likely to support her over Trump, which means embracing a more progressive agenda.”