Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Hillary Clinton's Huge Popular Vote Margin Illustrates Her Weakness as a Candidate —And the Democrats' Weaknesses as a Party

A great piece, at the Los Angeles Times, "Clinton won as many votes as Obama in 2012 — just not in the states where she needed them most":
The final results of the 2016 presidential election look like this: Hillary Clinton got roughly the same number of votes that President Obama received four years ago en route to his reelection, but she nonetheless lost the presidency to Donald Trump, who came in at least 2.8 million votes behind her.

That’s a highly unusual outcome — the biggest gap between the popular vote and the electoral college in almost a century and a half. Only now, with almost all the nation’s ballots counted, have analysts begun to flesh out what led to that result and what implications it has for the nation’s deep political divisions.

Start with California, where Clinton beat Trump by almost 2 to 1, amassing a margin of more than 4.2 million votes. That’s a victory more impressive even than Obama’s in 2012, and it included a win in Orange County, which had sided with the Republican in every presidential election back to 1936.

But Clinton’s huge majority in the nation’s largest state was also part of her key weakness — a base of support too concentrated in the big, urban areas of the northeast and the West Coast.

A candidate gets all of a state’s electoral votes whether she wins by four or 4 million, so in the national picture, the huge size of Clinton’s majority in California, as well as a similarly lopsided margin in New York, did her no good. Clinton piled up similarly “wasted” votes in some big, Republican states — notably Georgia and Texas — in which she did significantly better than recent Democratic nominees, but not well enough to win any electoral votes.

By contrast, Trump’s vote “was incredibly efficient,” said Tom Bonier of TargetSmart,  a Democratic data and strategy firm based in Washington. “Where he lost, he lost big. Where he won, he won by a little. There weren’t many wasted votes. He won almost all the close ones.”

Trump narrowly eked out the victories he needed in key states of nation’s industrial belt, taking Michigan by 10,704, according to final returns, Wisconsin by 22,717 and Pennsylvania by just under 45,000, according to a compilation of the latest data maintained by David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report.

The reasons that happened varied from state to state, Bonier and other analysts note. In Ohio and Wisconsin, for example, turnout fell, belying the image of an army of previously hidden Trump voters storming the polls.

In Pennsylvania, by contrast, that image may be more accurate — turnout rose significantly across the state. Similarly, in Florida, Clinton won heavily in nearly all the places that Democrats generally count on, but lost because of a huge election-day upsurge in heavily white, nonurban counties of the central part of the state, according to an analysis by Democratic strategist Steve Schale.

One big, consistent piece of the problem was that Clinton performed worse than Obama did in blue-collar, predominantly white communities outside of major cities; such as the counties that include Scranton and Erie, Pa.; Youngstown, Ohio; Green Bay, Wis.; and Daytona Beach in Florida. In many such counties, Clinton’s vote was 15 percentage points or more below what Obama received in his reelection.

“When I look at those blue-collar areas, I’m still kind of in awe” over how dramatic the change was, said Sean Trende, election analyst for the RealClearPolitics website.

Clinton actually did better than Obama in counties that have high levels of education — Orange County being a prime example — as well as suburban counties outside Philadelphia, Atlanta, Houston and several other major cities.

Indeed, the share of the white population with a college degree or higher turned out to be one of the strongest predictors of which candidate would win a particular area this year.

Trump’s weakness in those suburban counties, which in the past have often sided with Republicans, provides “a big red, flashing sign for both parties,” said Trende.

The danger for Democrats is that “if Trump can bring those suburban Republicans back into the fold” without losing his core support among blue-collar, white voters, “he could win a pretty significant victory” in the next election, Trende said.

The danger for Republicans is that if Trump fails to improve his standing in the suburbs, “there are a bunch of GOP representatives from those districts” who could suddenly be at risk...
Still more.