Election 2016 Review: Democrats Score an Own-Goal, Part II

2017 has rolled around, and with Mr. Trump entering the White House, I’d like to close the book on the 2016 election with a review of the certified election results. Shortly after the election, my analysis concluded that Clinton lost the election – Trump performed like a generic Republican, while Clinton underperformed John Kerry (2004) on the way to defeat. With all the votes in and Clinton showing a 3 million vote popular vote lead, is this analysis still valid?

  • Donald Trump received 62,979,636 votes, 27.2% of the 231,556,622 voting eligible people in the United States. This represents a drop of 1.1% in total vote share, relative to Mitt Romney, roughly in line with the recent decline trend seen for GOP candidates (Bush 2004 was the strongest GOP candidate in recent history).
  • Hillary Clinton received 65,844,610 votes, 28.4% of the 231,556,622 voting eligible people in the United States. This represents a drop of 2.2% in total vote share relative to Obama 2012, and was the worst performance by a Democratic candidate since Al Gore in 2000.
  • Given the narrowness of Trump’s victory in the upper Midwest, Clinton could be right that external forces like James Comey  or Wikileaks/Putin did her in. But she (or another Democratic candidate) could have overcome that had they turned out young and minority voters. Clinton didn’t need to perform at Obama-like levels – but she couldn’t hold on to the sliver she needed to win.

So in the final analysis, I still blame Democrats and the Clinton team in particular for this loss far more than I credit Donald Trump. According to the data, he performed in line with a typical GOP candidate, while Clinton greatly under-performed the last three Democratic campaigns. Other analysts concur, and have added depth by identifying exactly how many votes Dems left at home in the upper Midwest. The lesson for 2017 and beyond: Democrats – focus on turning out your base, instead of appealing to voters unlikely to vote for you in the first place.

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