Donald Trump seems to be attracting new, or formerly alienated “missing voters” into the Republican primaries.
The impact of this phenomenon will vary by state, depending on unique voting rules, but it could propel Trump to the nomination must faster than many folks expect.
According to Reuters, whose polling arm has conducted tens of thousands of interviews with likely primary voters. one-in-10 voters who are expected to vote in this year’s primaries will either be “new” or “returning” voters. These “returning” voters haven’t voted in the last two presidential elections or the midterm Congressional elections.
Trump has a dominating edge among these voters who have a candidate preference.
Trump has the support of just over 27 percent of these “returning” voters. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz garner the support of just around 4 percent each from these voters.
Trump’s edge with these voters is measurably higher than his advantage among traditional Republican voters. Among Republicans who have been politically active, Trump has 22 percent support. This is still more than the other Republican candidates, but far less a decisive edge.
One of the more underappreciated factors behind Mitt Romney’s loss is 2012 is the large drop-off in white voters compared to 2008. Nationwide, there were 7 million fewer white “missing voters” than in 2008. The drop-off was particularly high in the battleground state of Ohio, where African-American voters turned out in huge numbers.
It is obviously very tough to divine the voting intentions of people who chose not to vote, but it is likely that disgruntled voters staying home had some impact on the outcome of the election.
Just as Ronald Reagan’s landslide was fueled by millions of voters voting Republican for the first time, Donald Trump could upend many political calculations by bringing new voters either into, or back into, the process.
Trump’s campaign is aggressively courting these disgruntled voters. According to Reuters:
Trump…has made targeting “lost” voters…a focus of his campaign. His anti-immigrant rhetoric and protectionist trade proposals have helped him to fashion a message tailored to reach Americans alienated by the endless enmity between the political parties and who, because of declining economic prospects, may feel like neither party has done much for them.
“We’ve identified a lot of people in early primary states who have not participated in the process before,” Trump’s campaign manager told Reuters.
The Iowa caucuses are open to residents of the state who are registered to vote. They have to be registered as Republicans, but they can register with the party, or switch their voter registration, when they show up to vote.
Ted Cruz is currently favored to win the Iowa caucuses. Trump could upend those expectations, though, if he attracts a host of new or returning voters into the caucus. Even if this phenomenon doesn’t secure a win in Iowa for Trump, where the caucus rules are unique, it is likely to have a dramatic impact on future state contests.
The Donald Trump campaign has already rewritten the conventional wisdom on political campaigns. It may further rewrite the expectations of who actually votes.