Days of Change

Close Call

December 26, 2016
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My last stab at voting number six weeks ago missed about 8 million votes that apparently took weeks to count. This is the graph I made November 15.


This is what the vote actually looks like


The big difference is that the popular vote shifted up for Clinton by 4.8 million, Trump by 2.6 million and others by 850,000. Turnout was at an all-time high at 135.6 million, Clinton essentially equaled Obama’s 2012 vote total and Trump beat the second highest GOP vote (G.W. Bush in 2004) by just under 1 million votes. That covers most of what I was wrong about.

How about everyone else? There are two popular misconceptions. One is that Hillary Clinton “won” the popular vote. First of all, there was not a popular vote contest. Hillary Clinton won the best pantsuit contest over Trump, but since it wasn’t a contest, it’s meaningless. Secondly, the Constitution defines a presidential win by a majority of Electors. Clinton didn’t even win the majority of the popular vote.

The other side’s misconception is that the popular vote doesn’t matter. The national popular vote does not define a presidential victory, but all the states use the popular vote in the state to decide which electors are selected. In 2012, Obama could have lost 3% of the popular vote in battleground states and still won. For Trump, 1.5% would have meant defeat. Looking at the peaks in the “Other” vote in 2000 and 2016, Republicans seem to benefit from higher turnout against both parties.

The bad news for Democrats is that “winning the popular vote” is a fatal obsession. Instead of trying to turn close states with a targeted message, the left is working off a turnout model that more and more relies on large turnout in urban areas that have been destroyed in the very states they lost in 2016. Democrats are a minority party, excuse the word play. Barack Obama had the biggest majority by a Democrat in decades, but he did it by fooling non-Democrats to vote for a candidate promising change from the status quo.

The bad news for Republicans is that Trump’s victory was more luck than skill. First, Trump can from outside politics and used tactics that were different. Different is hard to plan for, but different becomes the same very quickly. Also, while Kellyanne Conway argued that polling different attitudes of voters showed Trump would win, the less than 2% difference in the vote in battleground states is well within the margin of error in any poll. In other words, up until Election Day, they only knew that Trump could win, not that he would.

Here’s my list of takeaways:

  • Americans may be more “independent,” but they don’t vote that way. Third-party turnout is highest when one or more major party candidates are unpopular. Otherwise, it’s only about 1.5%.
  • People are sick of government interference when they are told about it. The Tea Party hammered on the ACA in 2009 and 2010 and won a majority in the House. They were effectively shut down in 2012 and people weren’t sick enough of government to keep Obama out of office.
  • Trump did about the same as Romney across racial groups, but worse among women.
  • The most important Republican in 2016 was Gary Johnson. This former Republican gave people who didn’t want to vote for Trump an option that wasn’t Jill Stein.
  • Poll bias didn’t help Hillary Clinton. Polling was criticized during the general election for leaving out third parties. Gary Johnson didn’t get the 12% that was in one outlier, but he did get 3%. If more people saw that Clinton was in danger, they may not have protest voted.
  • Demographics may have favored Democrats, but the numbers are shifting. Clinton’s bombardment of female voters did bring Trump’s numbers down with women, but hurt her numbers with men.
  • Trump’s message resonated with blue collar workers. While he ran a national campaign, he went to rallies and talked about domestic jobs and foreign threats. His biggest gain over Romney was getting 51% of people with a high school education compared to Romney’s mid 40% showing.

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