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Eye On Candidates
August 22, 2016

A rare glimmer of hope for Trump campaign

Good news has been hard to come by for Donald Trump's campaign, but Politico this morning offers a rare piece of such news

Hope for Trump: GOP winning registration race in key states

Trump’s poll numbers remain dire, but he can point to at least one ray of hope for a turnaround: Republicans have continued gaining ground in recent months in voter registration in Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Iowa, while the late surge in Democratic registrations relative to Republican registrations that occurred in battleground states the final months of the 2012 election had not materialized in numbers released in early August.

“The atmospherics of voter registration trends in those states do not point to a strong Democratic year, so that’s one negative the Trump campaign does not have to deal with at this point,” said Louisiana pollster John Couvillon, who added that spikes in registration can add a point or two to a candidate’s vote share in a close race. “The voter registration data I’m seeing does not support the idea of a surge in Democratic voter enthusiasm.”

The article does point to the limits of this good news, however:

That result illustrates the value of concerted registration efforts, but also points to a larger problem for Trump. The political neophyte has largely ignored his ground operation and delegated the bulk of it to the Republican National Committee, which is falling short of its target staffing levels in state after state. Republicans and right-leaning groups have been working to catch up to the left’s advantage in mobilizing new registrants — achieved largely by targeting minorities and students — but in all eight battleground states for which POLITICO reviewed historical data, Democrats’ registration spread improved between the beginning of the general election period in mid-2012 and Election Day in November (a pattern that can also be attributed, in part, to the absence of a Democratic presidential primary that year).

And Trump’s biggest fans have already had the chance to register to vote for him in the Republican primary, meaning that pool may be tapped out, while those most motivated to vote against him still have time to register.

The Trump campaign appears to have found itself in a deep hole, and it isn't clear it knows to stop digging. But assuming they do manage some sort of turnaround, an edge in Republican voter registrations would likely be a critical component to any comeback.