Sunday, February 21, 2016
Reagan Democrats Rallying to Trump
The number that stands out from the most recent Michigan presidential poll is Donald Trump’s nearly 40 percent preference by Macomb County Republicans.
That’s more than twice the draw of the second-place finisher, Marco Rubio, who got 17 percent in Macomb, according to The Detroit News/WDIV-TV Ch. 4 survey.
Macomb is the original home of the Reagan Democrats, those blue-collar workers who frequently abandon their traditional Democratic Party to support conservative Republicans.
They aren’t much different in demographics or outlook from their Republican cousins in Macomb County. So if Trump is running so strong among GOP votes in Macomb, it’s not a stretch to think he’d also clean up among those Reagan Democrats in a general election.
“They’re not really even Democrats anymore,” says pollster Richard Czuba of the Glengariff Group. “They identify as independents now, and they swing back and forth. Trump has strong appeal to that sort of voter — non-college-educated, blue-collar workers.”
Czuba shares my growing belief there’s a better chance than not that Trump, who’s favored by 25 percent of Michigan GOP primary voters — 10 points ahead of his nearest rival, Ted Cruz — will be the Republican nominee.
If another Republican in this field were so far ahead in the polls, the coronation would have already begun. But the prospect is so outlandish still to many in the party, and in the punditry, that we’re still talking about distant second-, third- and even fourth-place contenders as if they had a chance.
“We’re having all these conversations about who’s going to be his bridesmaid,” Czuba says. “We talk about second place as if it matters.”
And it won’t soon. The also-rans will pick up delegates in the upcoming primaries, including the 13-state vote on Super Tuesday, March 1. And Michigan, which votes March 8, will share delegates with any candidates who tally at least 15 percent of the vote.
But after that, the primaries become winner-take-all. Even a strong second place will get a candidate zilch.
So candidates who hope to outlast Trump to the nomination will actually have to start beating him. Czuba sees that as unlikely unless the social issue voters consolidate behind a single candidate. But in the Michigan poll, Trump has a slight edge with anti-abortion voters.
Trump has a clearer path to the nomination than any other candidate. But can he win in November?
Don’t rule it out, particularly considering his potential to cut into the traditional blue-collar Democratic base. Some polls even suggest Trump can win more minority votes than Republicans typically expect.
His Achilles’ heel, revealed clearly in the Michigan poll, is women voters. “They really don’t like him,” Czuba says.
Even so, it is not as unimaginable as it once was that Trump can pull this off. Those blue-collar Macomb voters have always been an important bellwether. And right now, they love Donald Trump.