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Analysis: Poll shows possible Trump weakness in the South due to minority voters

Washington Post poll indicates unexpected states may be in play

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

southern states sm(CFP) — When it comes to wondering which way Southern states might fall in this year’s presidential election, conventional wisdom holds that, outside of a few states along the Atlantic seaboard, Donald Trump doesn’t have a thing to worry about.CFP Facebook Mugshot

A paucity of public polling in most of the South also means that we don’t have any way to judge whether this conventional wisdom is wise. But now, the Washington Post and Survey Monkey have come along with an unusual poll of all 50 states that offers some incredible results for a number of places in the South.

In fact, should these results be borne out in November, incredible won’t be a sufficiently strong adjective.

In eight of the 14 Southern states, the poll found that Trump’s lead over Hillary Clinton was only in the single digits—not just in battleground states such as Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia but in some rock-ribbed GOP states such as Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas.

In Arkansas, which Mitt Romney carried by 23 points in 2012, Trump led Clinton by just 9 points in the poll; in South Carolina, by just 7. And in Mississippi—a state that hasn’t gone Democratic since 1980—Trump’s lead over Clinton was a mere 3 points. No, that was not a misprint—3 points in Mississippi.

In perhaps the biggest shock of all, the poll found that Texas, with its bounty of 38 electoral votes, was a flat-out tie, with both candidates at 40 percent in a state a Democrat hasn’t carried since 1976. (How long ago was that? Donald Trump was still a year away from marrying wife No. 1, Ivana.)

Of course, one must greet the results of any poll showing Trump in possible trouble in Mississippi, Texas and Arkansas with a considerable dollop of skepticism. Casting more doubt on these findings is the fact that this poll was an online survey conducted on Survey Monkey’s platform that did not employ a random sample and, thus, a margin of error can’t be calculated.

However, despite those shortcomings, what makes this poll noteworthy is its extremely large sample size — 74,000 registered voters, about 70 times the size of a typical poll — which could compensate for some of the measurement and sampling issues posed by a non-random sample.

Also, battleground state results in this poll are consistent with other public polling in those states. (In Florida, for example, the poll showed Clinton with a 2-point lead, which is close to what the other polls have found.) And there is no reason to believe this methodology is inherently more inaccurate in non-battleground states.

So what might explain these wacky results that so assault our conventional wisdom? The answer could lie in Trump’s pronounced unpopularity with minority voters.

In Mississippi, for instance, the black voting age population is about 35 percent, and blacks register and vote at rates comparable to whites. So if Clinton is taking almost all of the black vote, she would need to capture just 25 percent of the white vote to win. True, President Obama couldn’t pull that off against Romney four years ago, but, then again, the GOP was much more united behind Romney than it is behind Trump.

And in Texas, blacks and Latinos make up an even larger percentage of the voting age population, 44 percent. If Clinton can galvanize those minority voters in large numbers, as little as 20 percent of the Lone Star State’s white, non-Latino vote could be enough to win (that’s a conservative estimate taking into account the fact that Latino voters lag black and white voters in their registration and participation rates.)

Florida, where Clinton led in the poll, has a minority voting age population of 31 percent, and, unlike in Texas, Latino voters in the Sunshine State register and turnout to vote at rates comparable to white voters. So with just 30 percent of the white, non-Latino vote, she could win.

A look at polls results those Southern states where Trump is doing well also supports the premise that minority antipathy may be what’s bedeviling him in the region. He was winning by more than 20 points in Kentucky, Tennessee, Oklahoma and West Virginia, all states with relatively small minority populations. But in three of the five states where the black voting age population is more than 25 percent, his lead was in single digits.

The only states where the correlation between high minority population and a reduced level of Trump’s level of support didn’t hold up were Alabama (where Trump led by 26 points) and Louisiana (where he led by 16.)

Arkansas—where the black voting age population is only 15 percent and he was only ahead by 9 points—stands out as an anomaly against the premise that a paucity of minority voters leads to wide margins for Trump. Then again, Hillary Clinton did live in Arkansas for nearly 20 years before decamping for New York, and her husband was elected governor of the Natural State five times. Perhaps they have more residual political roots than Republicans are anticipating.

So should we all put some money down on a Clinton victory in Arkansas, Mississippi or Texas? Despite the intriguing results from this poll, the odds of that happening would still have to be considered rather long. But this has been a political year where the only thing we’ve been able to expect is the unexpected. So it is not inconceivable that, if Clinton can galvanize the region’s minority vote and Trump runs behind Romney, election night might turn out more interesting than usual across the South.

Report: Trump nomination opens up Southern possibilities for Clinton

Cook Political Report moves projections for four Southern states toward the Democrats

white-house-chaseWASHINGTON (CFP) — Now that Donald Trump has secured the Republican presidential nomination, the respected Cook Political Report is shifting its projections for four Southern states, with 73 electoral votes, toward Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The more pessimistic projections for Trump are due to his “historic unpopularity with wide swaths of the electorate,” according to the report.

The four Southern states where Clinton is projected to have increased opportunity are Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia. Those states are four of the five largest in the region, and all have large populations of suburban swing voters Clinton is expected to target.

Of the largest Southern states, only Texas remains solidly Republican, according to Cook. The remaining nine states in the South–Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina, Kentucky and West Virginia–are also still rated as solidly Republican.

After Trump became the presumptive nominee, the Cook report shifted its projections toward Clinton in 12 states. In only one state, Maine, did it project an increased opportunity for Trump.

Nationwide, states with a combined 309 electoral votes are projected as either solidly for or leaning toward Clinton, 40 more than she needs to win. By contrast, the states solidly behind or leaning toward Trump have just 190 electoral votes.

florida mugPerhaps the most significant shift in Cook’s projections was for Florida, with 29 electoral votes, which went from a toss-up to leaning Democratic.

History shows how vital the Sunshine State is to any GOP presidential candidate: The last Republican to win the White House without carrying Florida was Calvin Coolidge way back in 1924. Five of the last six times a Democrat won, he carried Florida.

georgia mugThe most surprising shift in the projections was for Georgia, with 16 electoral votes, which moved from solidly Republican to leaning Republican.

The last time a Democrat carried Georgia was in 1980, when native son Jimmy Carter was on the ballot. Republican Mitt Romney won it by eight points in 2012.

virginia mugThe Cook report moved Virginia, with 13 electoral votes, from a toss-up to leaning toward Clinton. Although the Old Dominion became reliably Republican in presidential contests in the 1960s, Barack Obama won it in both 2008 and 2012 with a strong performance in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, something Clinton hopes to replicate.

north-carolina mugNorth Carolina, which had been leaning Republican, is also now a toss-up, according to Cook. The Tar Heel State has been a swing state in recent elections; Obama won it in 2008, but Romney took it back in 2012.

Obama’s victories show just how important keeping the South solidly Republican is for a GOP nominee. Winning just three Southern states in 2008, and just two in 2012, was enough for him to put the Electoral College out of reach for John McCain and Romney.

In 2000, George W. Bush took 168 electoral votes out of the South, more than 60 percent of what he needed to win. In 2012, Romney carried only 138, barely half of what he needed, forcing him to make up the differences in regions that were less Republican-friendly, which he failed to do.

An April Mason-Dixon poll of voters in Mississippi also illustrated the scope of Trump’s potential problems in the South. His lead over Clinton was within the margin of error, meaning that the race in the Magnolia State was a statistical dead heat.

If deep-red Mississippi were to be in play come November, the rest of the South would likely also be in play, which could mean a very long election night for Trump.

State House Speaker Thom Tillis wins North Carolina GOP U.S. Senate primary

Tillis turns back a challenge from Tea Party favorite Greg Brannon and will now face Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan in November

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

north-carolina mugCHARLOTTE (CFP) — North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis has beaten back a Tea Party challenger to win the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate, avoiding a divisive and expensive primary runoff that could have hurt GOP chances to take the seat out of Democratic hands.

State House Speaker Thom Tillis

State House Speaker Thom Tillis

Tillis captured 46 percent in the May 6 primary, ahead of Tea Party favorite Greg Brannon with 27 percent and Mark Harris with 18 percent. Under state law, Tillis needed to clear 40 percent to avoid a runoff, which would have extended the primary fight until July 15.

He will now face Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan in a race Republicans have targeted in their quest to gain a Senate majority.

Speaking to supporters at his victory rally in Charlotte, Tillis called Hagan an “echo chamber” for President Obama and vowed “to beat Kay Hagan and make (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid irrelevant in American life.”

“I want you all to grab a broom, and let’s sweep Kay Hagan out of office, and let’s sweep Harry Reid right into the back row,” he said.

Tillis, 53, from Charlotte, raised the most money, had the backing of the state GOP establishment and was endorsed by Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney and Governor Pat McCrory.

Brannon, 53, an obstetrician from Cary making his first bid for political office, ran with the backing of Tea Party organizations and FreedomWorks, an anti-establishment conservative group.

Brannon had hoped a last-minute, high-profile visit from Kentucky U.S. Senator Rand Paul on the day before the primary would enable him to force Tillis into a runoff.

Harris, 48, the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Charlotte, was one of the leaders behind a 2012 ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage in the Tar Heel State and was endorsed by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. In his first television ad, Harris vowed to “stand up and defend the values that are the foundation of our country.”

U.S. Senator Kay Hagan

U.S. Senator Kay Hagan

Hagan, 60, first elected to the Senate in 2008, is considered among the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents this year.

In a statement issued after the primary results came in, Hagan said Tillis’ “priorities are out of sync with our common sense North Carolina values.”

“As we say in our state toast, North Carolina is supposed to be a place ‘where the weak grow strong, and the strong grow great.’ I still believe in this ideal, but it is on the line this year as Thom Tillis has abandoned this shared value,” she said.

North Carolina is one of four Southern states carried by Romney in 2012 where seats held by Democrats are up for grabs this year.The others are Arkansas, Louisiana, and West Virginia.

Click here to watch video of Tillis’ victory rally from WSOC-TV.


U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin’s decision not to seek a third term opens door for Arkansas Democrats

Griffin’s Little Rock-based district is the least Republican in the Natural State

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics editor

arkansas mugLITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (CFP) — GOP U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin’s surprise announcement October 21 that he would not seek re-election has given Democrats hope that they might be able to capture his seat after going 0-for-4 in House races in the Natural State in 2012.

Just a day after Griffin stepped aside, former North Little Mayor Pat Hays announced that he will seek the Democratic nomination for the 2nd District seat. The popular Hays served six terms as mayor of North Little Rock, the second-largest city in the district, before retiring in 2012.

In a kickoff speech in front of a senior center named for him, Hays, 66, said he was spurred into running for Congress by the recent government shutdown.

“Sixteen days in October was a travesty,” Hays said. “Real people are affected when you have the kind of action those 16 days gave us.”

Other Democrats are considering the race, including former Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter, who dropped out of the 2014 governor’s race this past summer. No Republicans have announced so far.

U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin

U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin

Griffin, a former U.S. Attorney and aide to Karl Rove in the Bush White House, won his seat in the Republican landslide in 2010 and easily won re-election in 2012. His decision not to seek a third term – at a time when he had $500,000 in campaign cash on hand — surprised the Arkansas political establishment.

In a statement announcing his decision, Griffin said he and his wife “have decided that now is the time for me to focus intently on my top priority, my family, as Elizabeth and I raise our two young children.”

The 2nd District includes eight counties in Central Arkansas, including the state’s largest county, Pulaski, which contains Little Rock. While Mitt Romney carried the district in 2012 with 55 percent of the vote, President Obama carried Pulaski County, giving Democrats hope that they might be competitive in the district.

Until Griffin won the seat in 2010, the 2nd District had been traditionally Democratic. For nearly 40 years, it was the home base of the legendary Wilbur Mills, and from 1997 until 2011, it was held by Vic Snyder.

In 2012, Republicans for the first time carried all four of Arkansas’s congressional seats. With Griffin’s departure, two of those seats are now open. The other is the 4th District, in southern and western Arkansas, which is now held by Rep. Tom Cotton, who is giving up the seat to run for the Senate.

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