An Electoral Win For Trump Goes Through Florida

It’s Monday morning – time to get back to work. I have an assignment for you: go to the website 270 to Win and try to come up with a path to electoral college victory for Donald Trump that doesn’t include winning Florida. What you’ll find is that he would have to pretty much sweep all of the toss-up states to do so. That includes winning states like Virginia (he’s down by 7 at RCP) and Pennsylvania (where he’s down by 8). Right now, Hillary Clinton leads Florida by 2.7 – which is a lot more than the margin by which Obama won the state in 2012 (one percent), but we’ll have to keep an eye on that over the next few months.

In the meantime, Michael Grunwald provides us with a look at why Florida will be increasingly difficult for Trump to win. Of course, central to that uphill climb is the growing Hispanic population of voters in the state – which is projected to increase by 2% from 2012 to 2016. That is happening at the same time that Republican support from Hispanics is dropping.

George W. Bush actually won Hispanics in Florida when he carried the state by 5 points in 2004. Even Mitt Romney pulled a semi-respectable 39 percent of Florida Hispanic voters (versus only 27 percent nationally) when he lost the state by a single point in 2012. But that is not an encouraging trend line for Republicans. And Trump could be a uniquely toxic Republican.

But beyond that, Grunwald paints a picture of Florida that not many of us are aware of.

It’s booming, home to four of America’s 10 fastest-growing metro areas, generating a million new jobs since 2009. It’s welcoming, too, a destination for a record 100 million visitors last year and home to more than 4 million immigrants, renowned for its come-hither economic ethos that couldn’t be less about building walls. Florida’s lunch isn’t being eaten by foreign powers exploiting bad trade deals that Trump claims are killing jobs; in fact, 1 in 5 of its jobs relies on international trade. It has problems—bad schools, overwhelmed infrastructure, severe inequality, rising seas that threaten its 1,300 miles of coastline—but it simply doesn’t resemble Trump’s portrait of America as an Obama-fueled garbage fire…

If the real Trump’s biggest demographic problem is hostile Hispanic voters, his biggest thematic problem may be his insistence that the U.S. economy is in shambles. It’s hard to see the evidence in Orlando, which led the entire country in job growth last year. And it wasn’t just tourism and construction jobs, although Disney World and the rest of the hospitality industry did have a record-breaking year, while real estate continued its dizzying rise from the depths of the 2008 crisis. The entire area is becoming a kind of “Center for Technology, Innovation and Creativity,” a hub for life sciences as well as Indienomicon-style digital jobs…

The kind of knowledge workers who work in these kinds of industries make metropolitan areas younger, denser and politically bluer.

As Grunwald points out, Trump’s message is likely to resonate in the northern and panhandle areas of Florida – which have more in common with the deep south than the rest of the state. But it is hard to see how it succeeds in the crucial I-4 corridor of central Florida that is increasingly dependent on foreign trade and witnessing tremendous job growth in the digital economy. Add to that the kind of hostility Trump is conjuring from Hispanic voters as well as the fact that Clinton has more staff on the ground in Florida than her opponent has in the entire country, and prospects look pretty bleak for the possibility of that state going red in November. It’s also true that if Trump loses Florida, it is almost impossible to see how he wins the election.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.