Hillary Clinton’s Big Strength and Big Weakness

As a Pennsylvanian, I remember being a little perplexed about how much effort John McCain and Sarah Palin were making to win my state in 2008, but I didn’t know or had perhaps forgotten how big that effort actually was. According to Prof. Terry Madonna of Franklin & Marshall College (he’s our state’s Charlie Cook or Nate Silver), Pennsylvania came in second in advertising money spent (behind Florida and ahead of Ohio) and came in third in post-Labor Day election events.

Four years later, Romney and Ryan concluded early on that Ohio was the better investment. But once they determined that Ohio was out of reach (don’t tell Karl Rove), they made a late push to make Pennsylvania competitive.

But in 2012, the strategy of the candidates changed. Pennsylvania was virtually ignored by the presidential campaigns. Mitt Romney only decided to make a push in the Keystone State after he reached the conclusion that he could not win Ohio. So, for the last two weeks of the campaign Romney and Barack Obama spent some time and some money in the state, with about $30 million in television advertising.

Of course, by Election Night, the Romney campaign had somehow convinced themselves that the polls were skewed and that they would win Ohio and the election, but their post-Labor Day shift to Pennsylvania shows that they were more rational about their Ohio prospects in the weeks leading up to the election.

As Madonna goes over the latest polling results from Franklin & Marshall, there is not much to surprise a seasoned observer of the Keystone State’s politics. The Democrat holds a seven point lead, outside of the margin of error, and her support is centered in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and the Philly suburbs. The most significant finding in the sense that it represents a change from precedent is that Clinton is winning with college-educated white women. This isn’t in the least surprising to me as I live in the suburban collar around Philadelphia and I don’t think I know any college-educated white women among my friends, associates, teachers, medical professionals, folks in the pharmaceutical industry, who would even consider voting for Trump. It’s a finding anecdotally confirmed by Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale:

[Trump’s troubles] are most acute in manicured oases like Montgomery County’s affluent Blue Bell, 40 minutes north of Philadelphia. A summer day spent talking to 37 women at McCaffrey’s Food Market, a store offering artisan pizza and custom cakes, corroborated the basic finding of data from Pennsylvania to Virginia to Colorado: Trump is staring at a suburban whupping.

Mr. Dale had no difficulty finding Republican women who are not going to be voting for Trump, which lines up with what I’ve observed. John McCain and Mitt Romney had a lot more visible support around here (from signs to just people talking) than Trump does. And women, in particular, won’t even consider his candidacy.

These articles are cropping up all over the country in both local and national newspapers. You can read headlines like White Women in Charlotte Suburbs Were Reliably Republican. Then Came Trump. in the Charlotte Observer.

Or, you can see comments like this syndicated from the Los Angeles Times:

Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster who has spent decades surveying Southern voters and worked for Trump’s primary rival Marco Rubio, agreed. Particularly worrisome, he said, is Trump’s lagging support among college-educated white voters — especially women — who abound in the sprawling suburbs ringing Atlanta.

“A normal Republican nominee,” Ayres said, “would be comfortably ahead in Georgia.”

The warning sign for Clinton, which also explains why the polls have been tightening, can be found here in the F&M polling:

Clinton does hold a sizable lead on the questions of who has the experience needed to be president (55 percent to 20 percent) and who is most prepared to handle foreign policy (55 percent to 25 percent).

On the other hand, Trump holds a narrow lead when voters were asked who is the most honest and trustworthy (33 percent to 27 percent) and who will change government policies in a way that makes your life better (38 percent to 34 percent).

It’s frankly amazing that anyone not named Joe Isuzu could be trailing Donald Trump in the honest and trustworthy category, but Clinton is getting Swift-Boated pretty hard at the moment, this time by a lazy political press. It’s not that Clinton hasn’t at times legitimately damaged her reputation for candor and forthrightness in this campaign, but going back to the pre-primary days it has been widely noted that Trump lies constantly, to the point that Politifact felt to compelled to rate Trump’s “collective misstatements” their Lie of the Year for 2015.

PolitiFact checked 77 Trump statements and found that 76 percent of them were Mostly False, False or Pants on Fire.

In other words, for every four statements Donald Trump makes, only one of them is true, according to the site.

As recently as yesterday, Trump refused to disavow his Birtherism, claiming that he simply doesn’t talk about it anymore.

Yet, somehow, Clinton, who has no equivalent fake moon-landing theories of her own, is the less-trusted candidate even in a state she’s carrying by seven points.

If she needs to fix anything or shore up any weaknesses, this is it.

It’s insane that she needs to do it, but this whole country is half-insane right now.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.