Greg Sargent raises a good question (boldface mine):
The basic narrative at the core of this journalism has been that, no matter how worked up the elites in DC get about this or that Trumpian tweet or outburst, he identified some kind of bedrock political and economic reality in those places that allows him to survive despite — or even thrive in the face of — elite handwringing about his temperament, racism, misogyny, or what have you.
But what happens if Republicans sustain large losses in these very states only two years after Trump pulled off his successful invasion of them?
…If this does come to pass, won’t it be time to rethink our basic theory of the case as to why Trump was able to pull off such a heist in those states? It’s true that Trump is not on the ballot this time, and it’s also true that some Republicans have been resistant to Trump’s trade agenda. And if Republicans do lose bigly in these areas, no doubt the most devoted stewards of the myth of Trumpism, such as Stephen K. Bannon, will reflexively say it’s because Republicans didn’t campaign full-throatedly enough on Trump’s version of economic populist nationalism.
I don’t want to relitigate the 2016 election*, and if you thought Clinton was awesome, that’s fine. But it’s pretty clear that, in the Midwest, low Democratic turnout, especially among the working class, black and white, is what cost Clinton. When we look at black voters in Ohio–and I think it’s safe to say that anti-black racism isn’t what drove their lower turnout–they just didn’t believe voting for Clinton would make their lives better. In addition, for many reasons, a fair number of which were beyond Hillary Clinton’s control, she wasn’t well liked (and she was strongly disliked by many)–there’s a reason Il Trumpe keeps returning to Clinton during his rallies. That dislike depressed turnout, and among whites, might have even tempted some to switch parties. Unfortunately, there was an anti-Clinton vote and an anti-Clinton ‘non-vote.’ That won’t be in play in 2018 which is good for Democrats.
*The year is 2325, humanity has built a thriving Mars colony, we have developed sustainable cold fusion, and Democrats are still arguing about the 2016 primary…