President Donald Trump is betting that his law-and-order scare tactics will energize white suburban voters -- but that demographic may no longer exist as it once did.
The president remains popular in rural areas, and he won over suburban voters by 4 percent in 2016, and Trump and his Republican allies are betting he can turn out non-college educated whites who may be disgusted by police violence but don't support protests, reported Politico.
“There’s a lot of concern about the way the Minneapolis police acted,” said former Rep. Tom Davis, a seven-term Republican from the northern Virginia suburbs. “But whenever you start looting — and now the stuff’s spread out to Leesburg, it’s in Manassas … the politics takes a different turn.”
Trump's banking that voters agree.
Minnesota, where police killed George Floyd and protests first broke out, has about 250,000 white, non-college educated men who are eligible to vote but aren't registered, and that's more than five times the number of votes Trump would have needed to beat Hillary Clinton there.
“It’s what keeps me awake at night,” said Pete Giangreco, a veteran Democratic strategist. “I think there are a lot more people who support this president who didn’t vote last time than opposed this president and didn’t vote last time. That is how they win.”
Trump's incitements to violence and threats to crack down are aimed at those voters, Giangreco said, and "fanning the flames of division" instead of acting like a normal president.
But that's not guaranteed to work, because the suburbs are also home to the voters who flipped the House to Democrats in the 2018 midterms.
“You can’t do what Nixon called for what ‘law and order’ meant in the 1960s and ever have it succeed in America in 2020,” said Democratic pollster Paul Maslin.
The suburbs are less white and more educated than they once were, and younger voters are more sympathetic to the demonstrators' concerns.
“I think if people were frozen from 1968 to the present, they would be susceptible,” said Ed Bruley, chairman of the Democratic Party in Michigan's Macomb County. “But I think we’ve all had a number of years to know not to listen to one disgraced president when another disgraced president wants to follow suit.”
The Trump campaign has identified 1.4 million potential voters, and thousands more who haven't voted recently, and has data to help craft individual messages to those voters.
But the video of Floyd's death, and the resulting police violence at protests around the country, has resonated with suburban voters who see the evidence on their children's social media accounts, said former New York Rep. Steve Israel, a former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman from suburban Long Island.
“The issue is, how does it play out in 20 to 30 moderate counties in seven to eight battleground states?” Israel said. “That’s the crux of this, and the point I guess I’m trying to make is that normally it might not influence those voters. But when their kids are bringing these issues to the dining room tables in these places, I think it potentially backfires badly on Trump with that group of voters.”