From Sahil Kapur writing at Bloomberg:
For months, Democratic strategists viewed Donald Trump as a dream opponent in the 2016 presidential race—a clownish political novice who would gift their front-runner, Hillary Clinton, the White House in a landslide.
But the glee has given way to some pangs of anxiety as the Republican candidate marches to the nomination. Trump’s unexpected success in the primary has revealed his uncanny ability to appeal to the fears of working-class Americans, which some Democratic and Republican operatives say could scramble the electoral map by putting in play Midwestern states that have voted Democrat in recent elections.
“He’s unpredictable. He plays by his own rules. He’s thrown conventional playbooks out the window,” said Tracy Sefl, a Democratic consultant who advised the now-defunct group Ready for Hillary. Sefl warns that Trump’s idiosyncratic message of railing against trade deals and confronting countries where American jobs have migrated could have crossover appeal with blue-collar voters if Democrats don’t counter it effectively.
Most Democrats continue to believe he’d be the underdog against Clinton, and a new Bloomberg Politics national poll finds her leading Trump in a hypothetical general-election match-up by 54 percent to 36 percent. But some in the party are bracing for a tougher battle than they once expected.
“He could alter the map and make us fight in industrial Midwestern states we have not had to fight in for years,” said one prominent Democratic strategist involved in the 2016 race, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly.
Trump’s likeliest path to the White House hinges on winning Rust Belt states with high concentrations of white working-class voters, according to strategists and pollsters. It’s a herculean task as some of these states have voted Democrat for the past six elections, but the brash billionaire’s unique economic pitch could help.
Read the rest of the story at Bloomberg.