That, and other surveys, have shown Clinton not only on track for a record advantage among college-educated white women, but also running unusually close to Trump among college-educated white men, a constituency that has preferred the Republicans by margins of at least 17 percentage points in four of the past five elections.
Bolger, like many Republicans, has viewed those college-educated white men as the voters who might provide Trump his best opportunity to grow. Now, he believes the new revelations will reinforce the doubts many of them have expressed over whether Trump has the temperament, values and qualifications to succeed as president.
“If he was going to improve, which I don’t know if he was going to, it would have been with college educated white men and I think that’s gone too,” Bolger said. “Some of these college educated white men might have acted like that in their fraternity when they were 20. It doesn’t mean they act like that when they were 40.” (Trump was about sixty when he made the remarks.)
If college men may be the key to whether Trump can expand his reach, the group that determines whether his support substantially dips might be blue-collar white women. Despite Trump’s struggles with college-educated white women, in most polls he has maintained a double-digit edge with their non-college counterparts. (Trump led Clinton among those women by 17 percentage points in the latest Quinnipiac University national survey and 15 points in the NBC/Survey Monkey poll, though the new Atlantic/PRRI survey showed them about even.)
Long-time Democratic pollster Stanley B. Greenberg, who has studied attitudes among working-class whites since his classic research on “Reagan Democrats” in Macomb County outside Detroit in the 1980s, says that while these working-class white women have long expressed unease with Trump’s behavior toward women, those concerns have been overshadowed “by their anger about the elite class that has not understood the struggles of working folks.”
But the latest revelations, he says, “makes gender identity really raw and powerful. I think this is really looks like a real abuse [situation] and the whole tone of it, I do think there will be an impact.”
The level of support Trump can maintain is important not only for his prospects against Clinton but the GOP’s hopes of maintaining control of the Senate, and even the House. Over the past generation, the share of voters splitting their ballots between the presidential and Congressional contests had steadily declined. In recent weeks, Republicans have been heartened by polls showing GOP Senate candidates defying that pattern by still leading or running step-for-step with their Democratic rivals in states where Trump has fallen behind, including New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Florida and North Carolina (where Trump has dipped slightly behind in the latest surveys).