Donald Trump rocked the political world on Tuesday with his stunning victory. The fact he lost the popular vote cannot overshadow the breadth and depth of his victory. He won states the GOP had not in a generation and in doing so possibly permanently recreated the GOP coalition.
Exit polls have given us an indication of how he did this. Trump drew in sporadic white voters even as he lost other consistent white voters. For Clinton, her failure to galvanize the Obama coalition doomed her. For all the talk that early voting returns for Latinos would mean they would make up a historic percentage of the electorate their share only grew from 10 percent in 2012 to 11 percent this go-round. This helped Clinton carry Nevada and Colorado but not the Rustbelt states she needed.
Indeed, the unconventional way Trump won in states long sought by the GOP (Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Michigan and Ohio) show Trump did expand the electorate. Except, it was an unconventional electorate for a Republican.
Trump’s victories in Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania show how. Perhaps no states illustrate this better than Wisconsin and Iowa. Historically, Republicans have won Iowa by running up big margins in Eastern Iowa (ie. Bush 2004). They have won Wisconsin statewide races by running up huge margins in the Milwaukee suburbs.
But, this time, neither happened. Trump ran up margins all over Iowa. In Wisconsin, Trump underperformed Romney in the Milwaukee suburbs but he actually ran dead even in the rest of the state. Indeed, Trump’s margins in Ohio are the largest the state has seen for the Presidency since 1992.
Trump’s crushing of the blue wall did not occur just because Clinton failed to match Obama in Cleveland, Detroit and Philly. She actually improved on his performance in the Philly suburbs. Rather, Trump’s performance in rural and exurban areas was historically unprecedented (not even Reagan did as well).
Trump’s campaign had always banked on these voters and their models accounted for increased turnout among them but in internal polls they still trailed or at best were tied in the Rust Belt states they needed.
But, according to Trump’s polling form, Cambridge Analytica, as soon as returns started pouring in from the panhandle of Florida, increased turnout among whites over 55 (particularly from rural counties), a decrease in black turnout, and Latinos giving Trump 40 percent of their vote they started to believe. As soon as they put this data into their turnout models they started to believe. As soon as they saw the returns come in from Ohio and Iowa they knew they had it in the bag.
This occurred particularly in the Rust-belt. Several bellwether counties went heavily for Trump (Westmoreland, PA, Kenosha, WI, Macomb, MI). In all 3, not only did Trump win but turnout increased. In Westmoreland, turnout grew by 3 percent from 2012. In Macomb and Kenosha, counties Obama carried twice, Trump won by big margins.
Exit polls show how. In 2012, unions favored Obama by 30 pts. They favored Clinton by 10. It was the key swing vote in crucial counties and Clinton took it for granted.
Ultimately, even as Clinton dominated suburbs across the country Trump was driving turnout across the industrial Midwest. Even increased turnout in the Atlanta suburbs was outpaced by turnout in rural Georgia.
Exit polls tell this tale. In 2012, rural areas and the suburbs made up about 60 percent of the electorate. In 2016, that percentage swelled to 67 percent. And Trump actually did better than Romney in the suburbs.
Trump’s unusual coalition carried him to victory and many GOP candidates as a result. Trump proved that despite America’s changing demographics, blue-collar whites still make up a potent force in American politics. Just ask Debbie Dingell about that.