Trump almost certainly no longer has any chance to win Florida, the northern third of which is chock full of families connected with the military. [UPDATED.]
TRUMP: I think I’m going to to do great in Ohio, we’re going to do great in Pennsylvania, I think I’m going to do great in Florida and I think I’m going to do great in states that some people aren’t even thinking about. Because I’m different than Republican candidates, than other Republican candidates. I’ve got states that we can win that other Republican candidates wouldn’t even stop over for dinner.
— Donald Trump, during an interview yesterday with Washington Post political reporter Philip Rucker
As a native Midwesterner who had always thought of “Florida” as consisting of south Florida, the Tampa Bay area, the Orlando area, and the parts that connected them, I had no idea that northern Florida is pretty much a world unto itself. Or that it even existed.
But I’ve become familiar with it and therefore know it definitely exists. I also know that with the exception of its two major state college towns both of them very liberal it is politically beet read. And that one significant reason for it (albeit not the primary reason) is that scads of families in northern Florida have close ties in one way or another to the military: An immediate family member is active-military, retired career military, or is a veteran. Many families have more than one such tie.
This is true even in the two major college towns, one of which has a large Veterans Hospital connected to the University of Florida medical complex for medical training and for research.
I’m guessing that the same is true of North Carolina, but Trump theoretically could lose that state and still win if he manages to win Rust Belt states (he won’t, but I’m speaking theoretically here). He cannot win under any theory, though, if he loses Florida.
I’m well aware that the Trumpers who are his base in the South—the Trumpers who believe that Muslim terrorists are streaming into this country by the thousands, not the Trumpers who believe Trump will restore manufacturing to the Rust Belt—get literally all the political things they believe are fact from talk radio (I don’t mean NPR), Facebook and Twitter.
That of course is not limited to residents of former Confederate states. I know that. But it appears to be intensely prevalent in those states. Last week a man I know shocked me when he told me he planned to vote for Trump as “the lesser evil,” because “at least he’ll stop all those Muslin terrorists from coming into the country.” I thought he was joking, and laughed.
But then he told me that a house guest of his, from rural southern Missouri (who, this man also mentioned, was frustrated because his recent application for food stamps had been denied), had told him that Muslims have been beheading people in this country. Using swords.
I assumed he was joking, and chuckled again, but he said, “In Michigan. It happened in Michigan.” I joked, “In Michigan? Just in Michigan? Why are they picking on Michigan?”
He said, “Oh, it’s all over the country. In Arizona, in …” “In Arizona, too?”, I said. “Yes. All over the country.” John (his house guest) has told him. John saw it on his Facebook page.
I was starting to realize that this man was serious. He believed his house guest. I said, “And you don’t think this would been, maybe, a really big news story?”
“John says the news media just reports what it wants to report. They’re just not reporting this.”
I laughed—really laughed. I pointed out that the victims’ families probably would have reported this to the police, who probably would have contacted the FBI, and also probably would have mentioned the death to, say, other family members, the victim’s employer or work colleagues, neighbors, and the like. There probably also would have been a funeral home involved that would have noticed the severed head or the deep slash at the neck if the head was not completely severed.
Lots and lots of people, in Michigan, in Arizona, and elsewhere around the country would have to have been silent.
And then there was he question of how John’s Facebook contacts learned of this. Did they know victims or a member of the victims’ families?
This man began to laugh—at himself and at John. “Guess it didn’t happen, did it?”, he said. “No,” I told him.
The incident shook me. I hadn’t realized how widespread the susceptibility to profoundly illogical conspiracy theories and the like is.
But I digress. Talk radio folks are smart enough to know that here are limits even to what most of their credulous audience believe. And they also know that the larger media would report that the talk radio host was pedaling this.
So, back to the very large presence in northern Florida of families tied to and highly sympathetic to military families.
The Trump v. Khan story has broken through even the talk radio bubble for people who normally are encased in it, partly because of Facebook, I’m guessing. And it’s unlikely to be treated as media-bias-against-Trump. Is is instead likely to be a bridge too far for a good many of these families with military ties, whose members now are likely to simply sit out this election, I’m betting.
The next round of polls in Florida and North Carolina will be significant, but not necessarily fully accurate regarding these voters, some of whom may not be ready to tell pollsters that they’re dumping Trump but who already know they will do that by sitting out this election.
I suspect also that Rust Belters who have been considering voting for Trump for despite rather than because of Ban Muslims and Build the Wall–some of them Sanders supporters in the primaries–are unabashedly done with Trump, because of a slew of high profile Trump comments and actions in the last two weeks.
Even apart from the specifics–NATO, Putin, the Khan family, bizarre claims about crime and his decision to try to piggyback on the shootings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge (Law and Order!)–there is now a cascading recognition that Trump is severely mentally ill. This awareness, I suspect, is acute among military families and people whose ancestors are from former Eastern Bloc countries.
But I think it probably is spreading across a broad spectrum of voters, suddenly. The frequency of what appear to be public displays of actual insanity are increasing and probably will continue to increase.
Which raises the question, I guess, of a Republican third-party candidate or possibly Pence becoming the nominee somehow. In any event, Clinton will be the next president and is freed to campaign as whatever, ideologically, she wishes.
Courtesy of the Trump Trojan horse, albeit not in the way I had warned of.
UPDATE: The New York Times has an in-depth report online today about this. Titled “Donald Trump Risks Alienating Military Communities in Swing States,” reporters Alexander Burns, Noah Remnick and Nick Corasaniti, in Portsmouth, NH, Jacksonville, FL, Colorado Springs, Virginia Beach and Tucson interview (apparently) mostly fairly elderly veterans, a few of them retired career military, about this. (I think active-military folks are prohibited from speaking publicly about presidential candidates or the about the president.)
Added 8/4 at 6:22 p.m.