The Corner

Politics & Policy

Donald Trump Is Just Not an Easy Sell in the Western States, Compared with a Generic Republican

President Donald Trump speaks at the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta, Ga., September 25, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

From 1980 to 2008, the Republican presidential candidate was from either California (Ronald Reagan), Texas (George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush), Kansas (Bob Dole), or Arizona (John McCain). During that time, most political observers probably got used to the idea that a Republican presidential candidate would always perform strongly in Western and Midwestern states outside of the West Coast.

Donald Trump is absolute New York in his spirit and personality, and that persona is probably a tougher sell in states west of the Mississippi River. Even compared with Mitt Romney — a candidate who grew up in Michigan and who was a former governor of Massachusetts, but who also spent several years in Utah — Trump’s share of the vote in the Western states slipped a bit.

  • Romney won 53.6 percent in Arizona in 2012, while Trump won 48.6 percent in 2016.
  • Romney won 46.1 percent in Colorado, while Trump won 43.2 percent.
  • Romney won 64.5 percent in Idaho; Trump won 59.2 percent.
  • Romney won 59.7 percent in Kansas; Trump won 56.6 percent.
  • Romney won 59.8 percent in Nebraska; Trump won 58.7 percent.
  • Romney won 42.8 percent in New Mexico; Trump won 40.4 percent.
  • Romney won 66.7 percent in Oklahoma; Trump won 65.3 percent.
  • Romney won 57.1 percent in Texas; Trump won 52.2 percent.
  • Romney won 68.6 percent in Wyoming; Trump won 67.4 percent.

Romney won 72.7 percent in Utah; Trump won 45.5 percent, but we should note that result was driven in part by independent candidate Evan McMullin winning 21.5 percent in his home state.

In a handful of Western states, Trump exceeded Romney’s percentage.

  • Romney won 46.1 percent in Iowa; Trump won 51.1 percent.
  • Romney won 53.7 percent in Missouri; Trump won 56.7 percent.
  • Romney won 55.3 percent in Montana; Trump won 56.1 percent.
  • Romney won 58.3 percent in North Dakota; Trump won 62.9 percent.
  • Romney won 57.8 percent in South Dakota; Trump won 61.5 percent.

And in another handful, Trump and Romney performed about the same.

  • In Arkansas, both Romney and Trump won 60.57 percent of the vote.
  • Romney won 44.96 percent in Minnesota; Trump won 44.92 percent.
  • Romney won 45.6 percent in Nevada; Trump won 45.5 percent.

Trump losing a few percentage points compared to the average Republican in states like Nebraska or Kansas won’t make a significant difference. But it might make a difference in a state such as Arizona, and it might keep Nevada out of reach, even if the labor unions in that state aren’t able to run their get-out-the-vote operations at their usual pace because of the pandemic. The past success of candidates such as Susana Martinez and Cory Gardner made Republicans think they had a shot in New Mexico or Colorado, but that’s not happening this year.

Ordinarily, a candidate offsets any weakness in one part of the country with strength in the part of the country he hails from, and if you squint, you might be able to argue that Trump did that in 2016 in Pennsylvania and Maine’s second congressional district, and coming close in New Hampshire.

But in the Empire State, Trump didn’t improve all that much upon his very not–New York predecessor. Romney won 35.1 percent of the vote in New York in 2016; Donald Trump won 36.5 percent.

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