That's been a long time theme of my writing--both in terms of feasibility and necessity--and some new exit poll data collected by Ron Brownstein provides more support for this thesis. It's long been apparent that Democrats generally have a better shot at reaching young and/or female white working class voters than older male ones. But Brownstein's data add another factor to partitioning the white noncollege population that really shows how accessible parts of that population are.
That factor is whether a voter is an evangelical Christian. The data strongly suggest white noncollege voters who are not evangelicals are way more accessible to Democratic appeals than those who are. That could be very important in 2020, as Democrats consider what strategy to pursue and what candidate to put forward to beat Trump.
"Democrats....ran particularly well this year among white working-class women who are not evangelicals, a group that also displayed substantial disenchantment in the exit poll with Trump's performance. Those women could be a key constituency for Democrats in 2020 in pivotal Rust Belt states such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, where relatively fewer blue-collar whites are also evangelical Christians.
Nationwide, nearly three-fifths of blue-collar white women who are not evangelicals voted Democratic in last month's House races, while an equal number said they disapproved of Trump's performance in office, the analysis of exit poll results found. That was well over double the Democratic share of the vote among non-college white women who are evangelical Christians. And while Republicans last month still carried a majority among working-class white men who are not evangelicals, Democrats attracted about twice as much support from them as they did among the equivalent men who are evangelicals.....
While some Democrats have come to view white working-class voters as largely a lost cause for the party in the Trump era, other party strategists, including some affiliated with organized labor, have privately argued that the large number of staunchly conservative evangelical Christians in the group has overstated Democratic weakness among them.
Strategists in this camp argue it would be a mistake for the party to downplay outreach to white working-class voters who are not evangelicals, especially the women in that group....
Many of the party's potential 2020 contenders appear better suited to energizing its new base than recapturing working-class whites: Sens. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Texas Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke might all fit into that category. By contrast, former Vice President Joe Biden, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and centrists such as former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and outgoing Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper might be better positioned to reassure working-class white voters than to mobilize the base.
Similarly, the choice on how the party positions on racially tinged issues, such as immigration and police reform, will also likely be influenced by this debate. If Democrats believe they can recapture meaningful numbers of blue-collar whites from Trump they may hesitate about alienating them with vanguard liberal positions on social issues — such as abolishing ICE — in the hope of energizing younger and non-white voters.....
Although changes in survey methodology may partly explain the difference, the 2018 exit polls showed that among both working-class white men and women who are not evangelicals, Democratic House candidates won a measurably higher share of the vote than Hillary Clinton did in the 2016 presidential race. In the heavily blue-collar Rust Belt states that tipped the 2016 election to Trump — particularly Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — even small improvements might be enough to tilt the result the other way."
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