Trump will never win Virginia. Here's why

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump acknowledges supporters' cheers during a campaign event at the Berglund Center on September 24, 2016 in Roanoke, Virginia.
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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump acknowledges supporters' cheers during a campaign event at the Berglund Center on September 24, 2016 in Roanoke, Virginia.

Donald Trump still has an excellent chance to win the White House in November. Several major polls still have him in the lead or well within the margin of error in several battleground states. But there's one supposed battleground state where Trump most likely won't win: Virginia.

Virginia was once an absolute slam dunk easy win for Republicans. From 1968 through 2004, no Democratic presidential candidate won Virginia. But Barack Obama won it both in 2008 and 2012, and no poll so far in this election cycle has shown Trump ahead in Virginia. That's in contrast to almost every other toss-up state where Trump has shown considerable strength from time to time.

So why is Virginia not budging when it was once such a red state?

You might say demographics: Virginia's non-white population grew from 22 percent of the population to 28 percent between 2009 and 2013. And the population is also getting younger. The size of the population ages 18-29 has jumped from just 15 percent to 19 percent since 2009. Both younger voters and non-white Americans are simply less statistically likely to vote for any Republican.

However, other states where Trump is doing better are also undergoing similar demographic changes. For example, Florida is also seeing its non-white population grow. And more than 20 percent of Ohio's population is 18-34 years old. But Trump is holding his own and even leading most polls now in both of those states.

So what really makes Virginia different? It's simple: government, lobbyists, and the establishment.

Trump's unconventional candidacy has transcended the usual "red-blue" divide in national elections and turned it into an establishment vs. anti-establishment affair.

And more of the wealthiest, (and most likely to back the establishment status quo), voters are now backing Hillary Clinton. In 2012, Republican Mitt Romney beat President Obama by 10 percentage points among voters earning $100,000 or more per year. Most polls now show that has completely flipped to an eight-to-ten point lead for Clinton. And Virginia is now home to the top two counties for median income in the entire country.

And so much of that growing wealth and attachment to the status quo in Virginia is because of the government. Thanks to lucrative D.C.-area lobbying jobs and the rock-solid job security Virginia's large number of federal government workers enjoy, the state is chock full of residents who rely on Uncle Sam. And with the federal government still growing robustly over the past decades under both Republican and Democratic administrations, that establishment base is getting bigger. If Trump wins, there's no guarantee he will even try to reduce the size of the government and decrease the influence of lobbyists. He may not succeed even if he does try.

But his relative weakness in the Virginia polls tells us a significant portion of the population there doesn't like the sound of this outsider threatening their way of life. Imagine if Trump came into Michigan and bashed autoworkers, or showed up in Florida and bashed Social Security? Bashing the government and insiders in Washington has a similar effect for a lot of Democrats and Republicans in Virginia.

Most of the media will focus on the racial and general demographic reasons for Trump's uphill battle in Virginia, but it's important to know the challenges he faces go much deeper. If Trump were a traditional Republican candidate like George W. Bush or Mitt Romney, it would be different.

But even if Trump wins the White House by a comfortable margin in November, it's hard to believe Virginia will ever go his way.

Commentary by Jake Novak, senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.

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