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Flipping Fort Bend

FiveThirtyEight projects a national insight down to the local level.

In August, Nate Cohn of The New York Times put it well when he wrote: “The simple way to think about Mr. Trump’s strength is in terms of education among white voters. He hopes to do much better than Mitt Romney did in 2012 among white voters without a degree so that he can make up the margin of Mr. Romney’s four-point defeat and overcome the additional losses he’s likely to absorb among well-educated voters and Hispanic voters.”

There’s evidence that Trump is underperforming Romney among Asiansand African-Americans, not just Latinos and college-educated whites. Clinton, on the other hand, has been underperforming President Obama among non-college-educated whites.

To get a handle on how these shifts could affect the electoral landscape, we modeled how many of Romney’s votes came from college-educated whites and minorities and how many of Obama’s votes came from non-college-educated whites in each state, county and congressional district. The difference between these two vote totals, shown in the map above, can tell us where Clinton and Trump have the most potential to build on 2012.

Then we went a step further: How would the 2016 map look if one out of every five whites without a college degree who voted for Obama in 2012 defected to Trump and if one out of every five non-whites and college-educated whites who voted for Romney in 2012 switched to Clinton? (Why one out of five? It’s a somewhat arbitrary number but represents a realistic shift of these groups, according to polls released over the past few months.)

Let’s call this scenario the “2016 Vote Swap.” In it, Clinton would win the election, and her share of the two-party vote would be 52.7 percent — 0.7 percentage points higher than Obama’s 2012 showing. However, we also estimate she would win 10 fewer electoral votes than Obama did in the Electoral College.

[…]

The model suggests that several traditionally Republican suburban locales with diversifying and highly educated electorates could be poised to flip and support the Democratic presidential candidate: Orange County, California; Gwinnett County, Georgia; Chester County, Pennsylvania; Fort Bend County, Texas; and Virginia Beach. The model also suggests that Clinton could make major gains — while still falling short — in Douglas County outside of Denver; Hamilton County outside of Indianapolis; and Delaware County outside Columbus, Ohio.

Here’s what the map of all this looks like for every county:

There are a total of six counties in Texas that would flip from red in 2012 to blue in 2016 under the assumption that college-educated Anglo voters will shift from Trump to Clinton. Here they are, along with their 2012 results:


County       Romney    Obama   Romney%  Obama%
==============================================
Fort Bend   116,126  101,144    52.91%  46.08%
Nueces       48,966   45,772    50.95%  47.63%
Uvalde        4,529    3,825    53.69%  45.35%
Brewster      1,976    1,765    51.10%  45.64%
Hudspeth        471      379    54.58%  43.92%
Kenedy           84       82    50.30%  49.10%

Needless to say, some of these counties are more consequential than others. Having Fort Bend go blue, which nearly happened in 2008, would if nothing else be a big psychological lift for Democrats, as it would represent the first beachhead outside the traditional big urban/border county box that the party has been in. If Fort Bend, then why not Williamson, or Collin, or whichever other suburban county?

The other county worth keeping an eye on is Nueces, which is the population center for CD27, home of Rep. Blake “I was thrown off by the anchor’s use of a hypothetical question” Farenthold. That district could conceivably come into play if things get really bad for Trump; Lord knows Farenthold is incapable of being an asset to himself, so if there’s trouble he’ll be right there in it. We don’t have the the fuller Census data that the 538 crew uses to make these projections, so it’s impossible to say how much of a shift there might be if their hypothesis holds. There would be plenty of other factors affecting things as well, so don’t get too wrapped up in this. But if you’re in one of those counties, especially Fort Bend or Nueces, take this as motivation to do some GOTV work. The promise of a good result is there waiting to be taken. Juanita has more.

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