Since 1968, Democratic presidential nominees have almost always run better in the big battlegrounds of the Midwest than they have in the key Sunbelt prizes.That’s been especially true since 1992, when Democrats began their current streak of winning the popular vote in five of the past six presidential elections.Together, the five Rustbelt states offer 70 Electoral College votes, and the five Sunbelt prizes 72.
This year, the competitive picture looks very different, especially when considering the three Rust belt states where Trump has shown the most strength: Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin.
In the averages of state polls compiled by FiveThirtyEight.com, Clinton is winning a greater share of the vote in all five Sunbelt battlegrounds than in either Ohio or Iowa. In the averages compiled by RealClearPolitics.com and Pollster.com, Clinton’s vote share in all five Sunbelt battlegrounds also exceed her showing in Iowa and she’s running better in all of them than in Ohio, except for Nevada.
Clinton is in a stronger position in Wisconsin. But even so, her Wisconsin numbers lag her showing in Florida and Virginia in all three averages, as well as her numbers in North Carolina and Colorado in the Pollster.com compilation. Pennsylvania and Michigan, to this point, look safer for her than the other three Rustbelt swing states (though in some cases the averages place her vote share behind some of the Sunbelt states in each of them as well).
That new geographic pattern is rooted in the race’s defining demographic trends. In the six major national polls released just before last week’s first presidential debate, Trump led among white voters without a college education by resounding margins of 20 to 32 percentage points. But he confronted deficits of 40-50 points among non-white voters, and was facing more resistance than any previous Republican nominee in the history of modern polling among college-educated whites: five of the six surveys showed him trailing among them by margins of two-to-eleven percentage points (while he managed only to run even in the sixth.) The race is on track to produce the widest gap ever between the preferences of college-and non-college whites, while Trump may reach record lows among voters of color.