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Democrats Aim to Rebuild in Midwest    12/04 11:07

   DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- With the dust now settled from the election, 
Democrats are looking to rebuild the political "blue wall" of traditionally 
Democratic upper Midwest and Great Lakes states that Republican Donald Trump 
captured with an appeal to white, working-class voters.

   Hillary Clinton's failure to hold key blocs of these voters helped seal 
Trump's stunning electoral victory and leaves Democrats with a gaping, perhaps 
long-term, hole in the party's national battle front. Trump boasted of his 
accomplishment at a post-election rally in Ohio.

   The president-elect crowed: "We didn't break it, we shattered that sucker. 
We shattered it, man. That poor wall is busted up."

   Trump carried Michigan and Pennsylvania, where Democratic nominees had won 
the previous six presidential elections. Trump also won Wisconsin, carried by 
Democrats in seven straight tries, and Iowa, carried just once by a Republican 
over the same period.

   In each, Trump vastly outperformed 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney in rural 
areas, while also seizing more typically Democratic-voting small cities and 
working-class suburbs.

   Should Democratic voting continue to lag behind Republicans in midterm 
elections, as it did in in 2014, the results could be devastating in two years 
when the party will defend Senate seats in Michigan, Wisconsin and 
Pennsylvania, and try to retake governorships in Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin.

   "Democrats suffered the consequences of apathy and selective amnesia over 
the past midterms and arrogance over the presidential electorate," said Haley 
Morris, a senior adviser to Democrat Gary Peters' Michigan Senate campaign, 
among the Democrats' few 2014 victories in the region. "We got walloped across 
the Midwest in 2010 and 2014. Democrats had a glimpse of what the results could 
look like without Barack Obama on the ticket and ignored it."

   Mark Jefferson, the Republican National Committee's Midwest regional 
political director, said the GOP consistently focused on "blue-collar Reagan 
Democrats, who were heavily trending toward Trump."

   County-specific, unofficial national voting data tabulated by The Associated 
Press shows Clinton received fewer votes than Trump in places Democrats had 
banked on for consecutive elections, and even decades, such as Dubuque County, 
Iowa.

   Trump edged Clinton by fewer than 1,000 votes in this northeast Iowa county 
known for its small-city namesake on the Mississippi River and its once 
thriving manufacturing economy. Trump became the first Republican to carry 
Dubuque County since Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956.

   Clinton's 22,774 Dubuque County total fell roughly 6,000 fewer short of 
Obama's 28,768 in 2012, and more than 1,000 behind his 23,791 in 2008.

   Dubuque's Rebecca Thoeni, a lifelong Democrat until recently, said Clinton 
did not seem to reach out to her or her peers in 2016.

   "Then I saw Donald Trump, and he got out there and showed he was serious 
about keeping jobs," said Thoeni, who attended a Dubuque Trump rally in 
January. "He explained things in layman's terms. That's what changed me."

   Thoeni's is a scenario that echoed loudly around the country, where six in 
10 white women without college degrees said they voted for Trump, according to 
exit polls conducted for The Associated Press by Edison Research. The rate was 
even higher among white, non-college educated men.

   And it played out in the thousands in Macomb County, Michigan, home to 10 
percent of the state's voters.

   After railing for months against the North American Free Trade Agreement, 
enacted under President Bill Clinton, Trump won Macomb by 48,000 votes. Clinton 
received 176,238 votes, compared with Obama's 208,016 in 2012 and 223,754 in 
2008.

   "In counties decimated by trade deals, decades of talking points don't pay 
the bills," said Robert Becker, who ran Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' winning 
campaign for the Michigan Democratic presidential 2016 primary. "For the 
party's future, we have to be honest that the jobs being created in the country 
aren't being created in this part of the country."

   The pattern held in Wisconsin too, where Trump won fewer votes than Romney 
did in suburban Milwaukee and where Trump's criticism of Gov. Scott Walker 
worked against him. However, he carried the state in part by winning places 
like Racine County, part of a former union-heavy industrial corridor between 
Milwaukee and Chicago.

   Trump received about 4,000 votes more than Clinton in Racine County. 
Clinton's 42,506 were more than 10,000 off Obama's 53,008 in 2012 and 53,405 in 
2008.

   In Pennsylvania, Trump similarly won Erie and Luzerne counties, smaller 
metropolitan areas than sprawling Philadelphia and its suburbs, but with a 
higher white working-class population and unemployment higher than the state 
average. Democratic presidential candidates had carried both counties in the 
past six consecutive elections.

   Trump beat Clinton in Luzerne County --- childhood home of Vice President 
Joe Biden --- 78,303 to 52,092.

   In the final weeks, Clinton focused on emerging Democratic states such as 
Arizona and North Carolina. She lost both.

   Clinton did not have ties to working-class white voters as strong as those 
of her husband, who had been governor of Arkansas, said political historian 
Mary Frances Berry of the University of Pennsylvania.

   Berry, who has also worked for Democratic candidates, said before the 
election that Hillary Clinton was not contesting Trump in blue-collar country.

   The Democratic Party is seen by ordinary, working people as "caring about 
the cultural, managerial and professional elite," she said, "not about them."


(KA)

 
 
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