Even with the race’s late turmoil, Trump still faces long odds against overcoming Clinton’s lead in enough states to win. But Democrats can’t be entirely certain that Trump’s visceral connection with blue-collar, older, and non-urban whites won’t allow him to squeeze out a narrow victory.
The problem for Republicans is that even if Trump succeeds in the near-term, his insular appeal to his preponderantly white coalition has exposed the party to a clear long-term risk. Win or lose, all evidence suggests Trump is further alienating a Millennial generation that is already cool to the GOP—and is poised to become the electorate’s largest cohort in 2020. “It’s not like they came into 2016 with a great brand, and with Trump it’s just gotten exponentially worse,” says Andrew Baumann, a Democratic pollster who has extensively studied Millennials this year. Sepulveda agrees. After Trump, he said, for Republicans “there will definitely be a hole to dig out of with young people.”
Miami Dade College is an ideal place to measure that deficit. The Millennial generation is defined by its diversity; over two-fifths of Millennials are young people of color. This campus in downtown Miami embodies that diversity in its nearly 90,000 credit-taking students, most of them in two-year programs. Eduardo Padron, its dynamic president, says it awards more two-year degrees to Hispanics than any other college in America and more to African Americans than all but two.
Even before Trump, as Baumann notes, Republicans faced a mounting challenge with Millennials. When the very oldest members of the generation (generally defined as those born between 1981 and around 2000) cast their first presidential ballots in 2000, voters under 30 split about evenly between Al Gore and George W. Bush. But as more Millennials entered the electorate, Democrats established a wide advantage. President Obama held his Republican opponents to just 32 percent with voters under 30 in 2008 and 37 percent in 2012. Polls suggest Trump will struggle to reach 30 percent with them—even as nearly 30 million more Millennials are registered to vote this year than in 2012.
For most of the campaign, the depth of the Millennial distaste for Trump has been obscured by their coolness to Clinton. Late polls show her making progress after earlier struggles, limiting defections to Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. But however Clinton performs with Millennials, the real issue for Republicans is the generation’s antagonism toward Trump’s vision for America. In polling, as many as three-fourths of Millennials have described Trump as racist and biased against women—a sentiment often passionately shared on this campus. “For me this election has become so personal because of the things he’s said about Mexicans, about women, about immigrants,” said Nicole Zambrano, a sophomore student whose mother is Mexican. “It hit me to the core.”