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Politics and Government

Exploring Clinton And Trump's Weaknesses Heading Into November


Hillary Clinton's primary victories in New Jersey, New Mexico and here in California last night have clinched it for her. She is now the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and will face off against Donald Trump.


And looking forward to the November vote, NPR's Asma Khalid has been digging into exit polling from the 2012 presidential election and factoring in how demographics have changed in battleground states. And she has an idea of the candidate's potential paths to victory. Hey, Asma.


GREENE: OK, so Asma, let's start with Donald Trump. What exactly were you looking at here?

KHALID: Well, I wanted to see what it would take for Donald Trump to win. And so what I did is, I looked at the levels of support that Mitt Romney had among different demographic groups in 2012 and then sort of matched it with 2016 demographics in a number of battleground states.

And it seems that - assuming sort of the levels of support that Mitt Romney had in all these battleground states remained the same for Latinos, for white women, for African-Americans - and it seems like if we bumped up white male turnout across the board by 2 percent and then also assume that Trump could win white men by about 4 percent more than Mitt Romney did, he could, theoretically, win and get to 270 electoral votes.

And I know that this is somewhat of a high bar, you know. But we did find he could realistically flip states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, which have gone Democrat in recent years. Both Ohio and Pennsylvania are traditional Rust Belt states that have larger, older, whiter populations.

GREENE: OK. But you said this relies on him doing as well as Romney did with other groups. You know, I think about women. I think about Latinos. Could Trump do as well as Romney did with those groups?

KHALID: You know, I've been talking to sort of activists and leaders and voters across different states. I don't get the sense that that seems very feasible for Donald Trump. I think, you know, let's take a state like Florida. He would need to do two things to win a state like Florida. He would need to boost white turnout. But at the same time, he really can't afford to do much worse than Mitt Romney did with Latinos in 2012. And then for some perspective - in Florida, Romney actually captured about 40 percent of Hispanic voters. And the Hispanic electorate in Florida today is actually larger than it was four years ago.

GREENE: Well, let's turn to the Democratic side now. I know that President Obama had this famous Obama coalition. He brought together this racially diverse group of voters, a lot of women, added a lot of young voters to the mix. I mean, is Hillary Clinton looking like she can hold onto that coalition?

KHALID: Well, I think, let's start off sort of from the basic map of demographics, David (laughter). And that, I would say, actually gives Democrats a pretty clear advantage. You know, we're talking about a whole overall electorate that is browner than it has ever been. And to me, what's really interesting is states like Virginia, you know, which people tend to think of as battleground turf. When you look at demographics, a place like Virginia seems to be fairly convincingly Democrat because there's been a growing Asian and Latino population.

So, I think, for Hillary Clinton, the big question is going to be millennials. And so far, during the primary season, we've seen young voters overwhelmingly have chosen Hillary Clinton's rival Bernie Sanders. Research does indicate young voters are Democrats, through and through. And there's really no reason to think that they would suddenly become Republicans and support Donald Trump. But I think the big question is - will they turn out and support Hillary Clinton? You know, can she energize enough young voters, especially in states like North Carolina where we saw that young, African-American voters were really key to Barack Obama's victory in 2008?

GREENE: Well, so how is important is this? Is that a huge, huge problem for her that could really cost her the election?

KHALID: Well, I think part of that depends on if she could make up those votes from somewhere else. It seems like women, white women in particular, could be her safety net. Barack Obama actually lost white women by 14 points four years ago. And there's a possibility that Hillary Clinton could shrink that gap.

I would say, you know, she does not need to win white women as a whole. But if she can do marginally better, I would say, she could clear a path to victory. And that's really key in a state like Ohio, where some of the modeling that I was doing showed that just a 1 percent change in how white women vote could flip the state one direction over another.

GREENE: All right, Asma, thanks a lot.

KHALID: You're welcome.

GREENE: That's NPR's Asma Khalid talking to us about the demographics as we head towards the general election in November. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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