Donald Trump's Virginia Campaign Reveals He Already Knows It's Over
A bizarre campaign stop on Saturday left even Donald Trump's supporters confused. The Trump campaign is renewing efforts to win Virginia, a state most traditional analysts have long ago ceded to the Democrats. Although it is still considered a swing state, Barack Obama won it in 2008 and 2012, and a recent poll by Virginia's Christopher Newport University gave Hillary Clinton a whopping 12-point lead in Virginia. That's not surprising, considering the fact that her running mate, Tim Kaine, is the current senator and former governor of the state.
Indeed, the forecasts for Virginia appear to be a rare matter of consensus across various polling aggregators. FiveThirtyEight gives Clinton a 92 percent chance of victory there; The New York Times rates her chances at 99 percent. Even before the release of the 2005 hot mic tape, which cost Trump many major GOP endorsements, and the three debates, in which Clinton was largely seen as the winner, Trump's chances in Old Dominion were slim at best.
CNBC's Jake Novak has been a longtime critic of Trump's chances in Virginia, arguing in September that many Virginians who work for the government or as lobbyists find Trump's anti-establishment rhetoric insulting and threatening. "Trump's unconventional candidacy has transcended the usual 'red-blue' divide in national elections and turned it into an establishment vs. anti-establishment affair," Novak wrote. "Thanks to lucrative D.C.-area lobbying jobs and the rock-solid job security Virginia's large number of federal government workers enjoy, the state is chock full of residents who rely on Uncle Sam." Novak also cited changes in Virginia's population demographics, which are becoming increasingly nonwhite and increasingly young -- both demographics which tend to skew Democrat.
According to The Washington Post, Trump's children will also spend much of this week in Northern Virginia, which I believe to be a complete waste of valuable surrogates. Ivanka in particular is often seen as the campaign's most effective advocate for female voters suspicious of Trump.
So in the face of near-total consensus that a Virginia victory is not in the cards for Trump, what could have convinced the campaign that a reported $2 million ad buy was a valuable use of that money? To be fair, the Trump campaign has no path to victory without flipping a few states that are currently leaning toward Clinton. But Virginia — a state Trump doesn't technically need to win — is one of the longest shots available. I believe he would have much better luck focusing his efforts on states where he has a previously won lead to regain, like Ohio, or states where the polling is still close, like Florida.
Alternatively, Trump could use the time he's spending on Virginia to reach out to valuable demographics at the national level. Perhaps an interview on a national network with a well-respected female journalist (Diane Sawyer, for example) could help improve his poor standing with the suburban white women — a group which may play a critical role in determining the election's outcome.
Even a dramatic improvement in campaign strategy might not be enough to win Trump the election, but such a foolish waste of precious resources and time in the final days of the campaign seem to indicate a candidate who has, in some respects, already given up.