The new addition to the Biden coalition: Trump’s base | Editorial

Posted Mar 11, 2020

Donald Trump won the 2016 election because the blue wall of traditionally Democratic states across the Midwest crumbled, as white working-class voters selected the man who now seeks to gut their entitlements, eviscerate their health care, slash their safety net, and send more wealth and power to the top of the food chain.

So understandably, pollsters often wonder whether that particular demo, a.k.a. Trump’s Base, will remain loyal in this cycle — especially now that the only choices seem to be a self-absorbed billionaire who has abandoned the working class on a barren corner of a luck-starved neighborhood or a working-class Joe from Scranton.

Put another way: If Tuesday’s Michigan primary was a harbinger, Trump might have something new to worry about.

Joe Biden, as it turns out, is the turnout candidate. The extraordinary scope of his victory in Michigan, which makes him the presumptive Democratic nominee, puts that state back under the klieg lights for the general election just by tracing who showed up Tuesday night and how they voted.

The former vice-president won Michigan by 17 points, he won every county, some counties had 50 percent surges in turnout, and perhaps most significantly, he devoured the same army of supporters who delivered Bernie Sanders his own stunning primary victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Consider: Exit polls from that state showed that Biden had a 54-31 landslide over Sanders among those who never attended college, a 52-43 advantage among those who had some college, and 52-36 edge among those who had a two-year degree. Among whites with no degree, it was 49-39. Among white women with no degree, it was 55-40. Any way you slice it, Biden grabbed Bernie’s 2016 voters.

Pollster Elliott Morris of the Economist unpacked it like this: “Bernie's 2016 campaign was fueled by working-class whites in the Rust Belt. This year, they have been his undoing,” he said. “Sanders is down by about 30 points, compared to 2016, in Michigan counties with the highest shares of non-college whites. And down by just 5 in those with the least.”

It was clear that Biden’s dominance on Super Tuesday was largely a result of his support from African Americans, but that particular group wasn’t going to win Michigan for him – it represents only 18 percent of the Democratic electorate.

But the white working class is suddenly a dedicated Democratic voting bloc, and they like Joe because they sense — overwhelmingly — that he is best positioned politically to take on Trump and end their misery.

They like him much more than they liked Clinton, at least.

Indeed, it is still an open question whether the under-45 group that prefers Sanders will vote for Biden, but Biden has time to make his case to them about college debt and climate change and the issues that bring them out. And he has a unique opportunity to begin that healing process Sunday, when he meets Sanders on the debate stage in Arizona without a live audience. We hope he uses that time to clarify his outreach to the young voters that the Democratic party cannot win without.

But we’re still in the foothills here, and much will happen before November.

The world economy has already been thunderstruck. There is a real and present danger that entire health care systems will be overwhelmed. And while most campaigns are conducted in the gutter — note the recent avalanche of Russian-sponsored bot-memes about Biden’s mental health — that is an incongruous soundtrack to the real problems people are facing.

People like Michigan working class voters. They won’t be so easily distracted this time.

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