In the past, Democrats have asserted that demographics in Georgia, spurred by population growth in the metro-Atlanta area, would eventually give them the ability to be competitive in statewide politics. Their case is based on increased Asian American and Hispanic registration and strong turnout among reliably Democratic African American voters. This was the argument in favor of a strong showing by former Democratic Senate candidate, Michelle Nunn, back in 2014. From Osita Nwanevu over at Slate:
The changes that have taken place in Georgia mirror the kinds of changes that have put into play other formerly solid Republican states in the South, like Virginia and North Carolina. As with these states, Georgia’ population has been growing and diversifying. In 2000, roughly 63 percent of Georgians were white. Today, an estimated 54 percent are, the result of a Latino population that has grown from roughly 5 percent to more than 9 percent, a black population that has grown from 29 percent to 31 percent, and an Asian population that has grown from roughly 2 percent to 4 percent.
For old time’s sake, you can read the full article, here.
Due to her rather poor showing when faced with a national Republican wave, it seems that trusting in demographics could be a formula for success later rather than sooner.
Or, there could be yet another way for Georgia Democrats to get their foot in the door. In yesterday’s New York Times, The Upshot’s Nate Cohn made a slightly different argument to explain why Georgia may be in play for the Clinton campaign.
The simple way to think about Mr. Trump’s strength is in terms of education among white voters. He hopes to do much better than Mitt Romney did in 2012 among white voters without a degree so that he can make up the margin of Mr. Romney’s four-point defeat and overcome the additional losses he’s likely to absorb among well-educated voters and Hispanic voters. Even when Mr. Trump has led in the polls, he has fared worse than Mr. Romney among those two groups.
Cohn goes on to say:
But that doesn’t work so well if there aren’t many white working-class Democrats for Mr. Trump to win over, or if there are a lot of well-educated voters for him to lose. That’s more or less the situation in Georgia, and across many red states. According to our estimates, Mr. Obama probably didn’t even win 15 percent of white voters without a degree in Georgia in 2012.
We’ve heard ad nauseam about how Donald Trump swept through the Republican primary primarily on the backs of white, working class voters – whites without a college degree. That turned out to be a very effective strategy in the primary, but now, Trump is faced with daunting numbers coming out of swing states where a lot of college educated whites, women especially, can’t stand him.
According to Cohn, President Obama probably received around 15% of the non-college educated white vote in Georgia during his reelection bid in 2012. For Trump to pull off a victory, assuming his numbers remain stable in every other demographic group, he would have to push Clinton down to around 5%. Cohn says that’s “not credible”.
His best bet is to increase turnout, but that’s less powerful than persuasion: Flipping a voter gives you one more vote and takes a vote away from your opponent; increasing turnout gives you only one more. At the same time, white voters represent a smaller share of the electorate in the Deep South. In Georgia, just 58 percent of registered voters are white. Put it together, and white working-class Democrats make up just a sliver of the electorate. Even if Mr. Trump could make big gains with them, they wouldn’t move the needle very much over all.
Ironically, it may not be demographics that flip Georgia in 2016. It may actually be the very group of voters who served as the base of the Georgia Republican Party in the mid-90s into the early 2000s: middle to upper-middle class white suburbanites with a college degree. There’s many more college educated white voters to lose than the previous group Cohn addressed; Romney won 75% of them in 2012. Not only is Trump already doing historically bad with them, but the worst could be yet to come.
According to Cohn and others, the polls show that this group is the most likely to either stay home, or pull Georgia’s lever for a Democrat for the first time in 20 years. The question of whether or not Trump can turn these voters out for him in November remains to be seen.