December 10, 2019
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Trump’s Maine push has a lot to do with how old, white the state is

ERIC THAYER | REUTERS
ERIC THAYER | REUTERS
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump attends a campaign event on Tuesday at Briar Woods High School in Ashburn, Virginia.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Republican Donald Trump would have you think that his third visit to Maine is part of a bid to expand his party’s traditional electoral map in a state that has voted for Democrats in every presidential race since 1992.

But a harder look shows that it could be a sign of a shrinking map too reliant on older, white and working-class voters, which characterizes Maine’s electorate.

Trump is giving Maine — normally on the presidential back burner — outsized attention in 2016, and he will be at Portland’s Merrill Auditorium at 3 p.m. Thursday after March and June rallies in Portland and Bangor, respectively.

His polling in Maine is muddled: A June poll from the Portland Press Herald had Democrat Hillary Clinton ahead of him statewide, though the race was effectively tied in the more conservative 2nd Congressional District, which is worth one Electoral College vote.

The fact that he has a chance is a good sign for Maine Republicans. But Maine probably won’t help Trump win and could illuminate why his electoral path is so hard.

In the Electoral College configuration, Trump can win Maine but still lose the election handily.

National polls are reasonably tight, with Clinton leading Trump by more than four points, according to the latest RealClearPolitics average. But the state-by-state Electoral College map gives a better picture of what an election based on current polls would look like.

Clinton is doing better there: RealClearPolitics gives her a 328-210 advantage in the Electoral College, winning the key swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada and even Arizona, which has voted Republican in all but one presidential election dating back to 1952.

In this configuration, Trump outperforms 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney and wins the massive swing state of Florida, alongside that one elector from Maine’s 2nd District. It’s just that his other losses are too big to overcome.

Maine looks like the America of 1940, and Trump may be too reliant on a dated voter base.

Maine, the nation’s oldest and whitest state, looks much different than the rest of America. An interactive map from Time magazine, which used Census data to match states with the year that their demographics best reflected the nation’s population as a whole, put Maine at 1940.

It’s 94 percent white, with Hispanic and black Mainers combining to make up less than 3 percent of the population, according to 2015 U.S. Census data. Nationally, 62 percent of the population identifies as white and not Hispanic, with 31 percent identifying as either black or Hispanic. People age 65 or older make up 19 percent of Maine to just 15 percent nationwide.

Trump has gained notoriety for comments that inflame racial tensions, including his call for a border wall with Mexico, mass deportation of undocumented immigrants and a halt to Muslim immigration to the U.S.

But he doesn’t seem to be doing worse than past Republicans have with minority groups, according to data from the Pew Research Center. For example, Romney was backed by just 1 percent of black voters in June 2012 compared with 7 percent for Trump this June.

Trump, however, has lost significant ground among women, trailing Romney’s numbers by 10 percentage points. Among white, college-educated women, his gulf is a whopping 30 points.

He’s beating Romney among two categories of white men — those age 50 and over by eight points and those who have attended “some college or less” by 10 points. With a median age above 44 and a median income lower than the national average, those are the types of voters that Trump will try to appeal to in Portland tomorrow.

That’ll be after a likely introduction from Gov. Paul LePage, the 67-year-old Republican that this blue state has elected twice. But Trump’s path to victory is more complicated.

 



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