As any fair reading of the data reveals, the white working-class vote is still Democrats’ critical weakness. This is especially worrisome because white non-college voters remain a larger group than white college voters in almost all states — and are far larger in the Rust Belt states that gave the Democrats so much trouble in 2016: Iowa is 62 percent white non-college versus 31 percent white college; Michigan is 54 percent white non-college versus 28 percent white college; Ohio splits 55 percent to 29 percent; Pennsylvania 51 percent to 31 percent; and Wisconsin 58 percent to 32 percent.
Can the Democrats improve on their recent dreadful performance among this demographic in 2018? If so, they could build on what appears to be a significant shift in their favor among college-educated whites to power a true wave election in November that reaches beyond obvious targets in upscale suburban districts.
Disaggregated Gallup approval data provided to Ronald Brownstein indicates that there is a real opening among white noncollege women voters for big Democratic gains. These are voters who played a huge role in delivering Trump's gains in 2016, particularly in the Rustbelt. But many of these women have soured on Trump since the election. Brownstein's data are quite compelling here:
In the Rustbelt states that decided 2016, Trump has slipped into a much more precarious position with these women: Gallup put his 2017 approval with them at 45 percent in Pennsylvania, 42 percent in Michigan, and 39 percent or less in Minnesota, Iowa, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Compared to his 2016 vote, his 2017 approval among blue-collar white women in the Rustbelt represented some of his largest declines anywhere—18 percentage points in Ohio and 19 in Wisconsin and Minnesota. That erosion, which intensified during Trump’s effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, creates the opening for Democrats to contest blue-collar and non-urban House seats this fall through the Midwest and Northeast.
Will the Democrats capitalize on this opening? We shall see whether the Democrats can craft an approach that goes beyond their current Congressional agenda to reach hearts and minds among these voters. If they can, the 2018 payoff could be enormous.
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