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How Donald Trump Became President

Hard truth is that this was a winnable election for Hillary Clinton


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In the trio of Rust Belt states that swung the 2016 election to President-elect Donald Trump, his cumulative margin of victory the following afternoon stands at about 108,000 votes.

With the caveat that final counting continues:

In Pennsylvania, Clinton is roughly 68,000 votes behind.

In Wisconsin, the gap is 28,000 votes.

In Michigan – still not officially in Trump’s column – he leads by nearly 12,000 votes.

The hard truth on November 9th is that this was a winnable election for Clinton.

She has lost in the Electoral College, despite a lead in the popular vote – currently about 200,000 votes out of nearly 120 million cast nationwide.

The margins in these key states are so small it is difficult to apportion blame with accuracy. But any of the five factors below could have flipped the results.

1) Third-party protest votes helped assure the Trump victory. In each of these three states, Trump’s margin of victory is a fraction of Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson’s vote total. Green Party nominee Jill Stein currently has more votes than Clinton’s deficit in both Wisconsin (31,000) and Michigan (51,000).

2) The Clinton camp’s attempts to “expand the map” – with a go-for-broke effort in North Carolina and a foray into Arizona – look like hubris in the rear view. Despite a prodigious TV ad budget of more than $200 million, according to Bloomberg, Clinton barely touched the airwaves in Wisconsin or Michigan. Her first ad buy in Wisconsin launched on October 28th. She didn’t announce a Michigan TV campaign until November 1st. Would earlier advertising have been decisive? It’s hard to say with confidence: She roundly outspent Trump in Pennsylvania, but lost there as well.

3) Huge Obamacare premium hikes, announced in late October, may have had an impact. In Pennsylvania, rates for people in the private insurance market spiked an average of 55 percent. In Wisconsin, the cost of private plans jumped 16 percent. (Michigan’s rise was a more modest 7 percent.)

4) James Comey. The FBI director’s bombshell announcement of renewed scrutiny of the Clinton email case clearly had an impact at the margins, where these elections were decided.

5) Cracks in the Obama coalition. While Trump’s victory was keyed by a blowout among the white working class, he also peeled off important percentages of the Latino, African-American and youth vote, which moved 8, 7 and 5 points toward Trump, respectively.

The post mortems of the coming days will tell us more.

But swallow hard, America; a different outcome – and a different America – was easily within reach.

 

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