Donald Trump (Reuters/Carlo Allegri)

Donald Trump's "magic" thinking: His campaign's insane general election optimism about states they can't possibly win

Can a broadly reviled candidate like Donald Trump win Maryland, Delaware, and Connecticut? Hah... no


Simon Maloy
April 22, 2016 9:38PM (UTC)

If there’s one quality the Donald Trump presidential campaign does not lack, its confidence. In the days since Trump barreled through the New York primary, his team has been making a deliberate show of strength intended to discourage his rivals and win over skeptical Republicans. And, in characteristic Trump fashion, their pitches have an eye-catching, over-the-top quality intended to distract from the obvious lack of substance behind the product.

As I wrote earlier this week, Trump’s people are boasting that he’ll come into the convention with more than 1,400 delegates in his corner, a number that far exceeds outside estimates. And now, according to the New York Times, Trump campaign underboss Paul Manafort is making the case to high-ranking Republican officials that Trump is uniquely capable of tearing down the so-called “blue wall” – states that are all but guaranteed to vote for the Democratic candidate in the general election.

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From the Times:

Mr. Manafort, citing “the unique magic of Trump,” said the candidate could be in a “very competitive situation in states that by the end of September you say goodbye to the presidential candidate. He singled out Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. The three states last voted for a Republican presidential nominee in 1988.

Let’s just nip this in bud right now. Maryland and Delaware are two of the most Democratic states in the country – in the 2012 election, Obama won Maryland with 62 percent of the vote, and he won Delaware with 59 percent. Maryland’s population centers (Baltimore, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County) are full of liberals and minority voters, which means they’re extremely hostile territory for a candidate like Trump. These are not states Donald Trump will win. These are not states Donald Trump will be competitive in.

As for Pennsylvania, it is the quadrennial dream of Republicans everywhere that their presidential candidate will poach Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes from the Democrats, and it always fails to come to fruition as Democrats mobilize their supporters in the state’s urban centers. Mitt Romney spent the final weekend of the 2012 race campaigning in Pennsylvania, giving hope to the faithful that a Republican landslide was in the works. He lost the state by five points. How a broadly reviled and organizationally incompetent candidate like Trump will succeed where his predecessors have failed is unclear, though I’m fairly certain “magic” is an insufficient explanation.

Continuing on, Manafort painted a still rosier picture for Trump’s 2016 chances:

As Republicans ate oysters in a dim, stuffy conference room overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, [senior Trump campaign operative Rick] Wiley walked them through a slide show that predicted victory for Mr. Trump not just in swing states with large Hispanic populations like Nevada, Colorado and Florida, but in states that Republicans have not captured since the 1980s: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Connecticut.

It’s difficult to convey just how ludicrous much of this is. The idea that Trump will perform strongly in “swing states with large Hispanic populations” is a fantasy – Donald Trump very well might be the mot hated candidate among Hispanic voters in American electoral history. New polling of Latino voters puts Trump’s unfavorable rating at 87 percent (79 percent are “very unfavorable”). In a head-to-head match-up with Hillary Clinton, Trump takes 11 percent of the Latino vote. To put that in perspective, Mitt Romney took 27 percent of the Latino vote on his way to losing Nevada, Colorado, and Florida. Regarding the Rust Belt states, it’s not entirely inconceivable that he could outperform expectations across the industrial Midwest, but it would be a monumentally difficult task.

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As for Connecticut, I think Trump is being a little too conservative here. If he can flip a deeply blue state Obama won by 18 points in 2012, why not also throw Illinois in there? Hell, they should toss New Jersey into the mix while they’re at it.

Oh wait, I’m sorry, they do:

And in other solidly Democratic states, like Illinois and New Jersey, [Wiley] said Mr. Trump could force Mrs. Clinton to spend money defending herself.

Who’s to say where the Trump “magic” will stop?


Simon Maloy

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