Trump's victory in 2016, and his consistent support in polls from about 40-45% of the population, shows there is a significant audience for his hard-edged message on immigration and demographic change more broadly. But there is also a clear cost. In effect, Trump's bruising racially-infused nationalism is forcing the GOP to trade support among younger voters for older ones; secular voters for the most religiously conservative, especially evangelical Christians; diverse voters for whites; white collar whites for blue-collar whites; and metro areas for non-metro areas. Since Trump's emergence Republicans have consolidated their control of small-town, exurban and rural communities. But that has come with significant losses for the GOP inside metropolitan areas even in red states, like Texas and Georgia.
The trade Trump is imposing on the GOP was apparent in 2016 and enormously intensified in 2018.
In 2016, Trump lost 16 of the 20 states where foreign-born residents constituted the largest share of the population and won 26 of the 30 states where they represent the smallest shares. Even in the relatively more diverse states he won, he lost the vast majority of the big urban centers where immigrants and other minorities generally concentrate. Overall, Trump lost 87 of the 100 largest US counties to Hillary Clinton by a combined margin of over 15 million votes, according to calculations by the Pew Research Center.
Trump offset these losses by amassing the largest margins for Republicans in decades in small-town, exurban and rural areas. In 2018 House races, Republicans suffered only very modest losses outside of metropolitan area districts. And they gained three Senate seats in states with large populations of white voters who are rural, blue-collar, or evangelical Christians: North Dakota, Indiana and Missouri. But the party was routed in metropolitan House seats that contained significant populations of minorities, immigrants, singles, college-educated white voters, or all of the above.
After sweeping losses in suburban districts from coast to coast, the GOP under Trump has been almost completely exiled from the dynamic metropolitan areas that account for the nation's vast majority of job growth and economic output.
There is a whole lot of commentary on cable news this morning about how Trump is welcoming all this because this helps his election chances. I don't disagree that he believes this. But that doesn't make it true.
They are clearly banking on the same extremely narrow electoral college win they had in 2016. And we would be fools to think that's impossible --- obviously. But nobody knows whether or not he can eke out another victory with his victory by activating the racist right wing lizard brain enough to overcome the massive backlash he's engendered in the urban and suburban areas that could make the difference in swing states.
At this point the one thing the polls show is that for all his antics over the course of the last two and half years, his coalition has not grown. And the data from 2018 showed substantial losses. It's hard to believe they can get those people (mostly women) back with this racist, sexist assault but really, it's all he knows how to do.
So that's going to be the 2020 battleground. A referendum on Trump, as this election will be, will have to be fought on that terrain.