Donald Trump, the Presidential Candidate best known for campaigning on building a wall, grabbing women by a certain area, suggesting Clinton is insane, and more is now President-elect. He won at least half a dozen states no pollsters had predicted he’d win and he gave Republicans their biggest popular vote share since George Bush’s reelection in 2014.
So, how did Trump do it? Well, first-off, Trump’s gut instincts were right. He rejected the modern notions of a Presidential campaign, the consultant tested sound bites and micro-targeting, aggressive turnout efforts of prior campaigns. Most importantly, he brought thousands of Obama voters in the Rust-Belt to his side.
This was crucial for Trump as it became clear early in the night that he was not doing well in the suburbs (that was expected) on the East Coast. But, it was his unanticipated strength among white, married women and white, college educated men that combined with his strength in rural areas that carried him through. Most notably in Florida where vote totals showed he over-performed Romney by some 30 percent in the Pandhandle. He also showed surprising strength among Hispanics on the East Coast (not so much the West).
But Florida is different than Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Iowa. Yes, Trump needed strong rural and blue-collar turnout to win North Carolina and Florida but he also needed college educated whites. He got them. But that did not get him to 270. He needed Obama states that were different than the prior swing states. He got them.
Trump flipped Wisconsin, Iowa and Pennsylvania (and nearly Minnesota). Iowa was always in his corner but not a single poll had him leading in either Pennsylvania or Wisconsin. Indeed, not a single poll had him within a one-point margin in Minnesota. It is Trump’s battering of the Blue Firewall in the Midwest that crushed Clinton’s chances (note: as of this writing Michigan is Trump’s to lose but has not been called).
Obviously, we still do not know a lot data-wise. We have exit polls but until the final results are all tallied and some micro analysis is done of the voting electorate a lot remains to be seen. But the exit polls do tell the tale of how Trump pulled this off.
Trump’s coalition was anchored by non-college educated whites in virtually every state. According to Ronald Brownstein at the Atlantic, “Exit polls posted on CNN.com showed him crushing Clinton among those voters by enormous margins almost everywhere, particularly in the South. Trump beat Clinton among non-college whites by 18 percentage points in New Hampshire, 21 in Colorado, 22 in Arizona, 24 points in Wisconsin, 31 points in Michigan, and 35 points in Missouri. The margin swelled to enormous margins in Southern states: 34 points in Florida, 40 points in North Carolina, fully 64 points in Georgia. Even in states where Clinton ran well overall, like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Washington, Trump’s margins among blue-collar whites were enormous.”
Further, “In several cases, those showings represented significant declines for Clinton relative to Obama in 2012. According to the exit polls as of around 10 p.m., her share of the vote among non-college whites, relative to Obama’s showing in 2012, fell 14 points in Maine, 13 points in Michigan, 12 points in New Hampshire, 11 points in Colorado, 10 points in Wisconsin, nine points in Pennsylvania, and six points in Florida. It didn’t change much in key Southern states such as Virginia and North Carolina only because Obama’s numbers were already so low in the first place.” Nationally, Trump won non-college educated whites by a whopping 39 points, bigger than Reagan’s victory in 84.
This shows in the map. For example, in Pennsylvania, Clinton won 8 counties (Philly, the suburbs, Pittsburgh and a few northeastern counties). In Wisconsin, her results resembled that of the last 2 failed Democratic candidates for Governor. In Michigan, Detroit (Wayne and Oakland counties) was surrounded by red. As one GOP analyst put it in Florida, Trump ran up the best margins in 41 counties the GOP has ever seen.
There were a number of surprises that did not fit this pattern. For example, Trump actually carried Pinellas County in Florida (Obama won it twice). He also improved somewhat on Romney’s margins in Hillsborough, Florida and Oakland County, Michigan.
But, ultimately, Clinton won in the places she should have. She dominated the NoVA suburbs, the Philly suburbs, racked up huge margins in the Research Triangle in North Carolina and dominated urban centers nationally. But she just could not get enough votes in urban areas to offset Trump’s surge in rural/exurban areas.
A perfect case study of this was Pennsylvania. She improved on Obama’s margins in the suburbs, urban Philly and Pittsburg. But in Erie County she dropped from Obama’s 58 percent to Obama’s 47 percent and from Lackawana (Scranton) she garnered 50 percent compared to Obama’s 63 percent. Either Democrats didn’t turn out or Democrats that backed Obama voted for Trump.
Until we get final results, again, this is impossible to gauge. But Trump won by reassembling a coalition long thought resigned to the dust-bins of history. If nothing else, that is an impressive feat by itself.