Regarding the impact of Obama-Trump voters in 2016, Nate Cohn writes at The Upshot:
The story of the 2016 presidential election is simple. Donald J. Trump made huge gains among white voters without a college degree. His gains were large enough to cancel out considerable losses among well-educated white voters and a decade of demographic shifts.
There are questions and details still up for debate: whether Democrats can win back these voters, and how to think about and frame the decline in black turnout. But postelection surveys, pre-election surveys, voter file data and the actual results all support the main story: The voters who switched from President Obama to Mr. Trump were decisive.
Cohn cites a study which “found that 9.2 percent of Obama voters flipped to support Mr. Trump — a hair lower than the estimates from other surveys.” But Cohn emphasizes that the Obama-Trump voters were critically-important in key states, noting that Clinton “lost primarily because of the narrow but deep swing among white working-class voters who were overrepresented in decisive battleground states.” Further, “Just 74 percent of white Obama voters with a high school diploma or less backed Mrs. Clinton,” according to the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group. “Similarly,” notes Cohn, “the Cooperative Congressional Election Study found that Mrs. Clinton won just 78 percent of white Obama voters without a bachelor’s degree. The figure was even lower in the key Rust Belt battlegrounds.”
Cohn adds that “Strong evidence suggests a lot of these voters will lean Republican for the foreseeable future, and certainly will lean toward Mr. Trump. But Democrats can still win a meaningful and potentially decisive share of these voters, many of whom probably voted Democratic down-ballot in 2016.”
Cohn concludes that “it does seem likely that at least a portion of the Obama-Trump vote can be lured back to the Democrats — especially against traditional Republican candidates who emphasize small government, free markets and social conservatism…Whether that means it should be the crux of the Democrats’ path to power is another question. But it will most likely be a part of it, and will probably need to be for Democrats to secure parts of the Rust Belt that continue to play an outsize role in American elections.”
And what keeps getting overlooked in many media discusssions of Democratic prospects for winning back white working-class voters is that it doesn’t have to be a majority, or even a plurality of this large constituency — just a bigger share in key states.