The ACTUAL Likely Reason That Clinton Won Ohio by 15 Points: Blue-Collar Whites Voted in Large Numbers for Kasich Against Trump. (This matters. Maybe a lot.)

Okay, so Paul Krugman blogged yesterday that the Clinton campaign’s numbers guru, Joel Benenson, claims that Clinton lopsidedly won the Ohio primary because:

Ohioans took a hard look at Senator Sanders’ claims, and rejected them. Despite his attempt to portray Hillary as an ardent free­trader, Hillary voted against the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), the only multi­national trade agreement that ever came before her in the U.S. Senate.

Krugman mocks it, saying:

The rules of the game require, of course, both that he be totally positive about his candidate and that he profess a certainty about the meaning of every victory that I’m fairly sure he does not, in fact, possess. The truth is that nobody can be sure exactly why Ohio was so different from Michigan. … I very much doubt that many Ohioans knew about Clinton’s anti­CAFTA vote, or even what CAFTA was.

Clinton voted against CAFTA.  Krugman goes on to say that he was surprised back then when he read it to learn that CAFTA wasn’t a true trade agreement at all in the usual sense; it dealt mostly with intellectual property rights, especially with pharmaceutical companies’ patents. Like TPP.  He concludes by characterizing Clinton as a senator as cautious about trade deals and in selective opposition to them.

That’s good.  And because Kasich received a large percentage of the Republican primary vote in Ohio, including apparently a good percentage of the blue-collar white vote, it would be interesting to know how Kasich, then a congressman, voted on NAFTA.  (He left Congress in Jan. 2001, as Clinton became a senator.)

But while Trump would have to very substantially increase his percentage of the white vote in the industrial Midwest over Romney’s percentage in 2012—beyond what seems plausible—in order to win the general election, Democrats should not forget that Romney was deeply unpopular in Michigan and Ohio, and other rustbelt states, because of his “Let Detroit Fail,” stance: I.e., screw UAW members, present and retired, in favor of GM’s bondholders and Chrysler’s private equity owners. And because shortly before the Michigan primary he gave a speech to the Detroit Economic Club, shown repeatedly on local news programs, in which he said he would cut taxes again and again and again, beginning with a 20% marginal reduction, on upper income people.  And because he called 47% of the adult population takers who abuse the wealthy.

The key for the Dem nominee in winning white blue-collar votes will be less about Trump past—Trump University, for example—than about Trump future.  That is, what he is promising the Republican elite, albeit quietly, in the fiscal-policy and healthcare proposals he’s offering but that his blue-collar fans don’t know about.  Since late August, when he concluded that he needed a wingy Republican domestic-policy adviser, he has had one.

I’ve wondered why neither Clinton nor Sanders has asked rhetorically why Trump’s published fiscal policy proposals are Jeb Bush’s on steroids, and why Trump, who claims to be running against the Republican elites, is trying so hard to placate those elites.  Why is he pleading now for a united party? Why is he begging the party elites, including donors, to support him?

The Republican establishment thought it could defeat him by calling him a con man.  It didn’t work, because the con they were referring to was that he is not in fact a rightwing purist.  To which large swaths of Republicans and Republican-leaners said: Good.

Their reasons varied.  But in the industrial Midwest, it has little to do with building a wall and excluding Muslims. Midwesterners know the difference between losing their jobs to Mexicans in Mexico or to Chinese in China, and Mexicans or Chinese or Muslims moving here. Trump is either conning them about his fiscal policy plans or he is conning the Republican elite about his fiscal policy plans.  The Dem candidates need to say that.