It’s easy to glance at Tuesday’s popular vote — which, with 92 percent of all precincts reporting, shows Hillary Clinton with six million fewer votes than Barack Obama won in 2012 – and reach the conclusion that Clinton lost the White House because she failed to turn out the Democratic base. But the truth is much more complicated.
While she underperformed relative to Obama’s 2012 totals in several Midwestern states — Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, and Wisconsin — Clinton ran virtually even with Obama in the battlegrounds of Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia, Nevada, and New Hampshire. What’s more, she far surpassed Obama’s 2012 vote total in Florida, the country’s biggest swing state. Yet somehow, while Obama carried Florida, Clinton lost it.
Which brings us to an important question: Was Donald Trump just good enough to beat a bad Democratic opponent on Tuesday, or does he deserve far more credit? Could he, for instance, have competed with the vaunted Obama machine? The answer, somewhat shockingly, is yes. A review of vote totals in the past two elections reveals that Trump 2016 would have defeated Obama 2012 in the electoral college.
(Disclaimer: This obviously is an apples-to-oranges exercise because no two elections are the same, nor are any two electorates. Still, unlike debating whether the 2016 Cubs would defeat the 1927 Yankees, this is not an entirely abstract argument; a comparison of their respective performances in the country’s most competitive states shows Trump edging Obama in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup.)
The math might seem impossible. After all, Obama won nearly 66 million votes in 2012; Trump is currently at 59.5 million and should finish around 60 million, which will actually be one million fewer votes than Mitt Romney won. How, then, could Trump have topped Obama in the electoral college? The answer: Republican turnout lagged in certain parts of the country but shot through the roof in the nation’s most critical battleground states.
Let’s look at them individually, in descending order by population, and do the electoral-vote math. The 2016 totals aren’t yet final because not all precincts have reported.
FLORIDA — 29 EVs — 98 percent reporting
Obama 2012: 4,235,270
Clinton 2016: 4,485,745
Romney 2012: 4,162,081
Trump 2016: 4,605,515
Conclusion: Trump beats Obama by some 370,000 votes and wins Florida. (Note: Clinton herself won 250,000 more votes in Florida than Obama did in 2012.)
PENNSYLVANIA — 20 EVs — 97 percent reporting
Obama 2012: 2,907,448
Clinton 2016: 2,844,705
Romney 2012: 2,619,583
Trump 2016: 2,912,941
Conclusion: Trump squeezes past Obama by a margin of some 5,000 votes and wins Pennsylvania. (Note: Clinton runs about 60,000 votes behind Obama, but would’ve had more than enough to defeat Romney in 2012.)
OHIO — 18 EVs – 94 percent reporting
Obama 2012: 2,697,260
Clinton 2016: 2,317,001
Romney 2012: 2,593,779
Trump 2016: 2,771,984
Conclusion: Trump edges Obama by roughly 75,000 votes and wins Ohio. (Note: Clinton’s worst battleground state showing was Ohio, winning 380,000 [!] fewer votes than Obama.)
Stop right there and crunch the numbers: Florida (29) + Pennsylvania (20) + Ohio (18) = 67 EVs.
Romney finished with 206 EVs. By protecting all of those, and then taking 67 from Obama, Trump would hit 273 and win the presidency.
So, the states where the most popular Democrats showed their faces the most is where Hillary did the worst? That tells you something as well.
In 2000, running Gore, the continuation of the popular Clinton administration, Gore lost. Kerry lost in 2004. Obama won in 2008. Conclusion: for a liberal to win, it must be an unknown liberal with NO record, for a liberal record is always a BAD record.
Enter Hillary; she had a record… a BAD record. She lost. Will the left be able to find another charismatic unknown without a past (or at least one that fits in a safe)?