Trump’s task in Nevada: Win more votes from a smaller group

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Earlier this decade Nevada became the fifth majority-minority states, where whites are in the minority. Lately the state’s diversity has been fodder for those who lament that the New Hampshire primary and the Iowa caucus get more attention than they deserve, at Nevada’s expense.

But early presidential state “status anxiety” (New Hampshire is feeling it too this cycle, by the way), is perhaps the least interesting facet of Nevada’s diversity and the 2020 election.

For decades, political scientist Ruy Texiera has been studying and writing about changing U.S. demographics and what they mean for the nation’s politics.

A senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, Texeira recently co-authored an analysis with fellow CAP senior fellow John Halpin examining demographic trends and how they might impact the 2020 presidential general election. The authors focused on several key states, including Nevada.

The last Republican to win Nevada’s electoral votes was George W. Bush in 2004. And the so-called “blue wave” in Nevada last year suggests Trump has an uphill climb in Nevada next year.

Still, the Trump campaign is eyeing Nevada, because of a trend line: Obama won the state by 12 points in 2008, but only 7 points in 2012. In 2016, Hillary Clinton only won Nevada by 2.5 points.

“This trend line has earned Nevada a place on the Trump campaign’s short target list of states that Clinton carried in 2016,” Texeira and Halpin write.

But that’s not the only trend line in Nevada:

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By next year’s election, the share of white, noncollege voters — Trump’s base — is projected to fall by 3.2 percent in Nevada, what Texeira and Halpin characterize as an “unusually large decline.” Trump won those voters by 18 points in Nevada in 2016.

“Increasing this margin by 10 points would give him a narrow victory in the state of less than a point, all else remaining equal,” the authors write. “A similar result would obtain if Trump manages the more difficult task of increasing his performance among Hispanics, Asians, and voters of other races by 15 margin points.”

Conversely, the Democratic nominee would expand on Clinton’s 2016 victory by a point just by “holding Democratic margins at their 2016 levels, due to underlying demographic changes.” Expanding on Clinton’s margin among college educated whites and other races would be, well, gravy.

Hugh Jackson
Editor | Hugh Jackson has been writing about Nevada policy and politics for more than 20 years. He was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and wrote the then-groundbreaking Las Vegas Gleaner, which among other things was the only independent political blog from Nevada that was credentialed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He spent a few years as a senior energy and environmental policy analyst for Public Citizen, and has occasionally worked as a consultant on mining, taxation, education and other issues for Nevada labor and public interest organizations. His freelance work has been published in outlets ranging from the Guardian to Desert Companion to In These Times to the Oil & Gas Journal. For several years he also taught U.S. History courses at UNLV. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and then assistant managing editor at the Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming’s largest newspaper.