How Donald Trump’s Candidacy Is Affecting Politics in the South

As we approach the end of the 2016 election cycle, what had appeared to point to a blowout election for Democrat Hillary Clinton has tightened considerably, with late state-by-state polls showing Republican Donald Trump narrowing her lead. Because of Electoral College math, Clinton is still favored, but some states she had hoped to turn appear to be slipping far out of her grasp.

One of these states is here in Georgia, where recent polling has Donald Trump up between five and seven points, and the Real Clear Politics average has him leading Clinton by 5.4 points. And accordingly, Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball today moved the Peach State from Leans Republican to Likely Republican. The Crystal Ball now sees Florida and one seat each in Nebraska and Maine as tossups, and overall gives Clinton a 293 to 214 vote lead in the Electoral College — meaning the tossups won’t affect the election’s outcome.

Irregardless of how the vote comes down next Tuesday, however, the unlikely candidacy of Donald Trump has brought about a change in American politics that will last well beyond 2016. One big effect, according to a story in the New York Times, is a move to the left in the upper South and interior West as a result of women and minorities being turned off by Trump.

Stacey Abrams, the Democratic leader in the Georgia House of Representatives, said the presidential race had been a “godsend election,” opening the eyes of national Democrats to unimagined opportunities in her state. Priorities USA Action, a “super PAC” supporting Mrs. Clinton, is spending more than $2 million in Georgia.

Shaking hands last week in a lunchtime crowd at a mall in south DeKalb County, Ms. Abrams said the electoral calculus in Georgia had changed sharply. The booming Atlanta suburbs, she said, had opened a path to victory without winning over white conservatives — but only if Democrats were able to turn out black voters and other minorities effectively.

“Trump was helpful, because it allowed people to move past the prejudice that said you should never even think about a Deep South state being in play,” Ms. Abrams said. The dictum that elections in the South are decided by white voters, she added, “is no longer true in the Deep South.”

The Times story quotes State Rep. BJay Pak of Lilburn saying that Republicans are well aware of the demographic change. The question to be answered in the months and years ahead is how the GOP will respond.

Mr. Pak, who represents Gwinnett County, a suburban area near Atlanta where minorities now outnumber whites, said it had been hard this year to recruit a diverse slate of candidates, or to win over women and minorities.

“Donald Trump has really made it extremely difficult,” said Mr. Pak, who has not endorsed Mr. Trump. “They feel that the party’s not welcoming, and that’s a tremendous challenge when you’re trying to get people to give the party a chance.”

Wednesday evening, Democratic strategist Tharon Johnson and GOP strategist Brian Robinson got together in front of a live audience to discuss the future of politics in Georgia. Their discussion was moderated by WABE’s Denis O’Hayer, and portions will air at 7:20 and 9:20 AM Friday, November 3rd. Towards the end of the discussion the pair shared their visions of Georgia post-Trump.

Johnson maintained that a Clinton presidency combined with the failure to pass the Opportunity School District amendment would lead to a new coalition of blacks, Asians, Hispanics and whites. Robinson maintained the GOP will be able to maintainn its majority in Georgia through the 2030s by becoming more diverse and by promoting opportunities for everyone to advance.

How the parties respond after next Tuesday will show which vision is more accurate.

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Bart
Bart

How about the other side of the equation where Trump’s candidacy helped increase GOP turnout thus theoretically expanding the party. Why do certain folks constantly claim the GOP is a ‘big tent party’ then criticize Trump for actually making the tent bigger? He got more primary votes than any GOP candidate in history despite facing 16 other GOPers. Turnout is way up in counties normally voting red which also points to an expanding party. Dems on the other hand are seeing a significant drop in black voter participation – http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/01/politics/early-voting-update-black-vote-decreasing/ – Georgia for example has seen early black voters decline… Read more »

Benevolus
Benevolus

How do they determine the race of someone voting early?

Bart
Bart

Not sure, but this is the quote from CNN – “But if Clinton is going to pull off the upset here, she’ll need strong turnout from African-Americans — and there are signs that their share of the vote has dropped a bit from where it was at this point in 2012. Black voters made up 36% of Georgia’s early voting population at this stage of the 2012 race, compared to 31% this year.”