There exists an assumption that because Trump cleaned up with noncollege-educated white voters in 2016—winning them by a margin of 39 points, “the largest among any candidate in exit polls since 1980,” according to Pew Research—the president has maxed out his support among this much-mythologized group. But this is an assumption, not a fact. For one thing, there is evidence to suggest that while Trump won a bigger share of working-class whites than his predecessors, turnout among this group was higher in prior elections. Moreover, it’s not clear that Democrats have bottomed out with this group; the same polarization that continues to depress Trump’s upper-class white support could propel his working-class white support even higher.
The bottom line, Washington, is that for as well as Trump performed with these voters in 2016, he needs to do even better with them in 2020. He needs to convert more blue-collar Democrats. He needs to turn out more unaffiliated nonpartisans. The question is: Can he?
To answer that question, I needed to escape the self-imposed quarantine that has limited my past three letters to my home base of Michigan. I needed to steep myself in a place that should be bleeding red MAGA country but for whatever reason still isn’t. I needed to visit Scranton.