I went into the weekend of November 5th feeling pretty confident that the late momentum was breaking Hillary Clinton's way, despite my concerns about seeing her shifting around her schedule to make emergency (??) campaign stops in Michigan and Pennsylvania, states that she was figured to have locked down months earlier. Her campaign had a mildly persuasive excuse though, arguing that since nearly all ballots in Michigan and Pennsylvania were cast on Election Day rather than in early voting, it made sense for her to rally the vote in those states in the campaign's final days. And so my optimism about her chances advanced into Monday, November 7th. Watching the late Monday rallies, however, something felt off. I just had a feeling that Trump was closing hard, particularly in Michigan and Pennsylvania. All day on election day I felt a deep concern, an ache in my stomach that I never felt in 2012 when it was obvious that Obama had the momentum against Romney. Still, Trump's path to victory seemed like it would require a triple-bank shot from half court that would require one in a million luck, so I kept telling myself it couldn't possibly happen....
And then it happened....the biggest election night upset since at least "Dewey Defeats Truman" and arguably more so. It was pretty clear that even Trump's mind was blown. The American people had really decided that electing an unqualified sociopath was less of a risk than a former Secretary of State who once used a private e-mail server. It was clear to me with the release of the exit polls at 8 p.m. poll closing time that Trump was gonna win, but most people had to sit through several more agonizing hours of watching everything fall apart before the unthinkable happened. And not only was the GOP nominee who was supposed to take down the entire party elected, it was the other party that got wiped out downballot, not the GOP, at least insofar as it was possible for the Democrats to lose much more given that they're already at their lowest point in terms of elected officials nationally since the 1920s. I'm less motivated to study the corpse this year than most but I'll stick with tradition and explore all 50 states......
Alabama--Based on reduced black turnout due to Obama not being on the ticket, I predicted a 29-point Trump victory in Alabama and the final result was Trump +28, up from Romney's 22-point in 2012. The only development worth mentioning in Alabama is the complete realignment of the mostly white northern Alabama counties, an island of Yellow Dog Democrats as recently as a decade ago, into the GOP fold with stunningly strong numbers for Trump. GOP Senator Richard Shelby won re-election by an identical 28-point margin to Trump's.
Alaska--The days of Alaska's 25+ point Republican margins appear to be over. I predicted Trump +19 and the current count has Trump +15, albeit with a small percent of votes left to be counted, a figure consistent with the Romney +14 margin of 2012. I'm not sure the full extent why, but there is tremendous racial diversification this decade in Alaska, suggesting those margins could get even closer in the cycles ahead. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski was re-elected with 44% in a multi-candidate field, with the second place finisher being independent conservative Joe Miller, the GOP's 2010 candidate.
Arizona--Hillary Clinton made an attempt to expand the map and pick off Arizona in the final week of her campaign, looking at some internal polling showing her within striking distance. Unfortunately for her, it would stay just out of reach, with Trump winning by 4 points, even closer than the Trump +6 margin I had predicted. Romney won Arizona by 9 points. Hillary saw gains in metropolitan Phoenix and Tucson but couldn't put Trump away, even with the sentiment in Maricopa County being strong enough for voters to toss out Sheriff Joe Arpaio. As expected, Senator John McCain was re-elected, albeit by the weakest margin (12 points) since his first election 30 years ago. McCain's challenger, Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, vacated a Republican-tilting district in northern Arizona to run against him but the Democrat held that House seat by a decisive 7-point margin.
Arkansas--In just a few election cycles, Arkansas has gone from a Democratic stronghold to one of the brightest red states in the country, so I overshot the runway a bit with my prediction of Trump +31 as the final outcome had Trump winning by 27 points. Most of Trump's gains versus Romney, who won by 24 points, came from picking off even more white, rural voters, as Democrats are trying to show us how close to zero they can get with southern whites. Several counties that went for John Kerry as recently as 2004 were now going better than 70% Trump. Republican Senator John Boozman easily dispatched his challenger, a guy who would have been seen as a strong candidate for Arkansas a decade ago, by 24 points.
California--If there was one undisputed success story for Democrats on November 8th, it was from the state that's been the source of Democratic insurgency for about two decades now, and also the largest state in the nation where, at least in theory, it's a good thing to be upwardly mobile. Ultimately, the perception of "California values" probably hurts Democrats in Middle America more than the California numbers help, but it's undeniable that Hillary Clinton's consolation prize of decisively winning the national popular vote is entirely the product of her lopsided margin in California. Four years ago, Obama won California by 22 points and my prediction was Hillary +26 this cycle....but she's exceeding even my predictions and winning by 29 points! Her victory was so comprehensive that Orange County, home of Richard Nixon and long held up as the national bedrock of Reagan Republicanism, flipped to Hillary by a dramatic 8 points, marking the first time since FDR that Orange County has voted Democrat. California is notoriously--and ridiculously--slow in counting their votes, and it appears their new vote-by-mail approach isn't helping with the slow vote count as more than 10% of their vote is yet to be counted even 12 days after the election and will continue trickling in for days and perhaps week to come, likely growing Hillary's national popular vote margin as it does. Downballot, Attorney General Kamala Harris won the open Senate seat vacated by Barbara Boxer, as expected, in her Democrat vs. Democrat match-up with Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, and managing to win by more than 25 points at that. Even California proved to be a disappointment in the House races though, as Democratic efforts to pick off Republican incumbents Steve Knight, Jeff Denham, and David Valadao in the heavily Hispanic, Democrat-trending Central Valley all fell far short, while Democratic incumbent Ami Bera only barely held onto his seat in the Sacramento suburbs amidst ethics concerns. The top Democratic target, Republican Darrell Issa, possesses the only Congressional race in the country still uncalled. It's unclear whether the remaining precincts to be counted are heavily Democrat or not, but Issa holds a 5,000-vote lead which seems like a very steep hill for Democratic challenger Doug Applegate to climb, leaving the Democrats with no Congressional gains in California even amidst their blowout victory at the top of the ticket.
Colorado--Another state that appears to be firming up in the Democratic column is Colorado, which Hillary won by the same 5-point margin that Obama did, although still falling short of my Hillary +8 prediction made before the Comey letter reset. Hillary's strength was pretty much centralized in metropolitan Denver and the granola ski towns though as Trump managed to make considerable gains in both the old working-class steel town of Pueblo, which flipped to Trump after going for Democrats Presidentially since 1972, as well as making substantial gains in rural counties in the southern part of the state that are majority Hispanic. One of the biggest stories of this election is the degree to which many Hispanics identify with white backlash orthodoxy and supported Trump, actually improving upon Romney's Hispanic numbers rather than collapsing as just about everybody expected. Downballot, Democratic Senator Michael Bennet, expected to win by a double-digit margin, managed a mere 6-point margin against a token opponent, suggesting that as Colorado gets bluer statewide, the resistance is firming up to create a high ceiling for Republicans in just about every race, a phenomenon we've been seeing in Virginia in recent cycles. And just as happens every two years, perennially targeted Republican Congressman Mike Coffman held onto his blue-leaning seat in suburban Denver, the only competitive House seat in the state.
Connecticut--There was plenty of chatter about the Midwest and Donald Trump's "Rust Belt strategy" before and certainly after the election, but less analyzed is the degree to which Trump's populist campaign shifted blue-collar votes from blue to red even in the northeast. Blue-collar eastern Connecticut shifted several points to Trump to the point of flipping rural Windham County, which has voted Democrat Presidentially for the previous six cycles, to Trump. Hillary made up for that to a degree, albeit in the wrong way for Democratic messaging, by winning over multimillionaire financiers in southwestern part of the state, picking up long-time GOP strongholds like New Canaan and Darien. Still, Trump picked up ground. Obama won Connecticut by 17 points in 2012 while Hillary won by 13 this cycle, nearly matching my Hillary +14 prediction. Nanny-state extraordinaire Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal won by a much more dramatic 28-point margin while the state's all-Democratic Congressional delegation held on comfortably.
Delaware--In most cases, Vice Presidents don't matter much even in their home states, but for a small state like Delaware it seems more likely that Joe Biden was a boost for Obama in both 2008 and 2012. I anticipated a small decline from Obama's 19-point Delaware victory in 2012, but the state seemed like such a poor fit for Trump that I still predicted Hillary +18. Similar to Hillary's disappointing margins across the river in suburban Philadelphia, so was the Hillary +11 victory statewide in Delaware, easily losing Kent County (Dover). Downballot, the decadeslong dominance of Delaware's Democratic statehouse continued with Congressman John Carney making the leap to the Governor's race and winning by a double-digit blowout. Democrats held Carney's vacant House seat with a double-digit victory there too.
District of Columbia--If there was anyplace in the country where a preference for Hillary Clinton as President was nearly unanimous, it was the entire Washington, D.C. area where concern for federal government disruption under Trump was highly motivating. Nonetheless, I suspected that the majority-black District of Columbia would see some turnout decline from four years ago (that failed to materialize as well) and thus predicted that Obama's 84-point victory would shrink to Hillary +82. That didn't happen as Hillary improved upon Obama's margin, winning by 87 points. Trump managed only 4% of the vote in the District.
Florida--Ugh.....the first sign when the actual votes started rolling in that the night was not going well came when Hillary's predicted near-certain victory fell apart as the election day votes were counted and it became clear she was gonna lose before 8:00. Republican Senator Marco Rubio, thought to be slightly favored in a close re-election race, held on by 8 points and his race was called officially before 8:00. It was not a good sign for Hillary, who I predicted would win by 3 points as most polling suggested was likely, improving upon Obama's 1-point margin in 2012. Instead, it ended up being Trump +1, as all of Hillary's gains among Cubans and Puerto Ricans alike in the Miami and Orlando alike were canceled out by just about every other corner of the state moving towards Trump. When I saw three Obama counties that flipped red early in the night (St. Lucie, Monroe, and even Pinellas!!!), I figured it represented a bigger problem for Hillary nationally as all of those jurisdictions would have been slam-dunks for Hillary if she was really getting the sorts of numbers among college-educated whites that polling said she would. Demographics still suggest Florida is moving in the Democrats' direction, but last week's result also suggests a growing resistance in the red and pink portions of the state that will keep the GOP's ceiling high by canceling out Democratic improvement in their fast-growing strongholds. It was a complicated situation downballot in Florida as they went through a mid-decade redistricting instituted by the courts that, as expected, turned one blue district red and turned two red districts blue (Charlie Crist FINALLY found a race he could win as a Democrat in the one district, albeit surprisingly narrowly even there). But beyond that, two other seats changed hands as well. The GOP-leaning seat held by Patrick Murphy, the losing Democratic Senate candidate, turned red, but long-time GOP Congressman John Mica's suburban Orlando seat flipped blue as a young Democrat named Stephanie Murphy caught Mica napping and beat him by three points, one of the few bright spots for the Democrats in the country in House races. All in all a net gain of one seat for Democrats in Florida's House delegation, still a disappointment as they at one time hoped to pick up three seats.
Georgia--Even in the final week of the campaign, there were some polls indicating the race was close in Georgia. Romney had won Georgia by 8 points and I predicted the state's demographic shift portended a small shift towards Hillary, guessing it would be Trump +6. It ended up being Trump +5, and had I looked at the state's county map without knowing the numbers, I'd have figured Hillary had actually won the state. I figured Hillary had a good shot at picking up the diversifying county of Gwinnett in the eastern Atlanta suburbs (she won it by 6 points) but I never imagined that north Atlanta suburban Cobb County, home of Newt Gingrich himself, would be vulnerable, yet Hillary won Cobb County by 2 points as well! So how did she not win statewide after doing better than what she was even expected to do in every corner of metropolitan Atlanta, one of the few places where she really did make serious inroads among college-educated whites? Apparently, rural Georgia whites proved they could still get even more Republican than they were before. Couple that with a smaller black turnout, especially in rural areas, and Democrats discovered once again that their eventual demographic seizure of Georgia may take longer than they'd planned. In the Senate race, Republican incumbent Johnny Isakson won another double-digit victory while all incumbents prevailed in the state's racially polarized House races.
Hawaii--It was a bit of a mystery how the Aloha State would vote this year, without native son Barack Obama on the ballot. It's clear that Hawaii has gotten more Democratic generally in the last decade, but I predicted the state's margin would decline from Obama +43 in 2012 to Hillary +25 this year. Turns out I lowballed the margin as Hillary won by 32 points. Downballot, Democratic Senator Brian Schatz was re-elected to his first full term with an impressive 73% of the vote, and perhaps most remarkably, the last Republican standing in Hawaii's 25-seat state Senate was felled, giving Democrats a complete sweep of every Hawaiian state Senate seat.
Idaho--There was no ambiguity who would win the state of Idaho this year as Trump would clearly win it, but the disaffected Mormon factor and the Evan McMullin factor loomed large in the nation's second most heavily Mormon state this year, and McMullin clearly had an impact getting more than 7% of the vote and holding Trump to less than 60% of the vote statewide, which hasn't happened to a Republican in Idaho since Bob Dole in 1996. In terms of the head-to-head numbers between Trump and Clinton, however, it was still a Trump blowout. In 2012, Idaho was Romney +32 and I predicted Trump +30 this year. Ultimately though, the margin wasn't altered as Trump still won with the same 32-point margin that Romney got. Downballot, Republican Senator Michael Crapo was re-elected by a 2-1 margin even after a DWI arrest a few years ago.
Illinois--Polling indicated that Hillary Clinton was likely positioned for a margin similar to Obama's four years ago in the Land of Lincoln, but I correctly surmised that it would likely come from a different coalition. And sure enough, the Hillary +17 margin this year matched the Obama +17 margin in 2012 exactly, only one point off from my Hillary +16 prediction, but Hillary's strength came almost entirely from Chicagoland. Obama was strong in Chicagoland in 2012 as well but Hillary was even stronger, with particular gains in the upscale outer-ring suburbs, indicating there were some places in the country where college-educated whites soundly rejected Trump. But Hillary was absolutely demolished downstate. As recently as a decade ago, Democrats had a pretty comprehensive coalition in Illinois with strength in multiple rural areas downstate as well as the St. Louis suburbs. There were signs of serious erosion in that coalition in 2012 but it flipped much harder red in 2016, and this year Hillary also lost a bunch of working-class counties in the state's northwestern quadrant hugging the Iowa border that held out nicely for Obama in 2012. It's hard to see how Democrats continue their domination of the Illinois Legislature given that they're now managing to find ways to lose Presidentially in places like Rockford, Galesburg, and Canton. On a more positive note, Democrat Tammy Duckworth was a rare bright spot for Democrats in the Senate as she managed to dispatch incumbent Republican Mark Kirk by 15 points with a coalition more reminiscent of previous successful Democrats in the state. Democrat Brad Schneider also regained a swing House district in the northern Chicago suburbs that has been bouncing back and forth between the parties every two years for four cycles now.
Indiana--The Hoosier state's polls are among the first in the nation to close and gave early warning signs for Democrats nationally how ugly of a night it might be. Vigo County, Indiana, home of the small industrial city of Terre Haute, has been a national bellwether for decades, correctly predicting the winner since the 1950s, and as the vote count rolled in on November 8th, it was clear Trump was winning it by double-digits. This portended ugly signs for similar Midwestern industrial cities as the night rolled on. I had previously predicted that Indiana's days of 20-point GOP blowouts in Presidential races were likely over as metropolitan Indianapolis was nowhere near as Republican as it was even 15 years ago. Despite some promising polls for Hillary at various points in the cycle, I figured Mike Pence's presence on the ticket likely put it out of reach for her and predicted a Trump +15 win, a fair amount worse that 2012's Romney +10 result. But contrary to my predictions, Trump won the state by 19 points, dominating even in the Democrat-leaning white working-class towns like Michigan City and Muncie. Downballot, I could tell in the last couple of weeks that former Democratic Senator Evan Bayh's race was slipping away and figured he'd lose decisively, but Bayh's 10-point drubbing at the hands of Republican Todd Young was a couple points worse even than I feared, and was also a harbinger of disappointing results in other battleground Senate races across the country. Democrats had high hopes for long shot victory against a carpetbagging Republican in Young's GOP-leaning district in southeast Indiana, but the Republican won that by a surprisingly robust 13 points as well.
Iowa--Several months ago, I predicted that Iowa would be the weakest link of Obama's 2012 coalition, and polling bore that out throughout the summer and fall even when Hillary's leads were at their strongest nationally. Anecdotally, I was struck as I inquired about Presidential preferences amongst my more downscale personal associations and found that Hillary wasn't even a consideration for quite a few people who had twice voted for Obama. In the final weeks of the campaign, it was just a matter of how severe the drubbing would be at the hands of the orange-haired demagogue. Quite strong, actually! Obama won by 6 points in 2012 and I predicted Trump +2. As election night approached it became clear it would be worse than my Trump +2 call and boy was it, with the finally result likely to be Trump +9 after the provisionals are counted. Obama had won 38 Iowa counties in 2012. Hillary won a grand total of 6 in 2016, managing to lose even Dubuque County which hadn't gone for a Republican in nearly 100 years. In the Senate race, Democrat Patty Judge got to within 10 points of the seemingly indestructible Republican Senator Chuck Grassley in some early polls but ended up getting crushed by 24 points. Republican Congressman Rod Blum, a Tea Party radical in a 56% Obama district in northeast Iowa, was thought to be the most vulnerable Republican in Congress a year ago.....until he crushed his seemingly strong Democratic challenger by 8 points. Beyond that, the Republicans got full control of the state legislature by handily taking control of the state Senate. My takeaway: Iowa's three-decade realignment into the Democratic fold that began during the 1980s farm crisis is over, and it will now vote much more like Nebraska and Kansas than its recent pattern of voting more like Minnesota and Iowa.
Kansas--Speaking of the devil, Kansas was fool's gold for Democrats in 2014 as both embattled Republicans, Senator Pat Roberts and Governor Sam Brownback, were both expected to lose but ended up winning decisively. Nobody was predicting a Democratic win at the Presidential level, but there was chatter than the Kansas City suburbs were soundly rejecting Trump. Indeed, Hillary did quite a bit better in upscale Johnson County, the state's largest county in the Kansas City suburbs, but Republicans countered that by going for Trump by more lopsided margins than ever just about everywhere else in the state. Romney won by 22 points in 2012 and I predicted Trump +19 this year based on all the reports of Kansas City area improvement, but the reality lied in the middle with a Trump +21 result. Republican Senator Jerry Moran scored a dominating 30-point re-election victory and Republican Congressman Kevin Yoder, thought marginally vulnerable because of Trump nonsupport in his suburban Kansas City district, still pulled off an 11-point victory.
Kentucky--The magnitude of Kentucky's realignment to the GOP was completed on November 8th as the state House, the only legislative body in the entire South, still held by Democrats, flipped to the GOP, rendering another state with full Republican control of government whose top priority will likely be union-busting, right-to-work legislation that also kills Democrats' opportunity to be competitive in elections at all levels. There was no question that Hillary would play like a fart in church in Kentucky. Romney won the state by 23 points in 2012 and I figured Trump would win by 30. I was right on the money with the actual Trump +30 result. Tiny, rural Elliott County in northeast Kentucky held the streak as the longest Democratic-voting county in the nation having gone for every Democrat in Presidential races since its founding in 1868 through 2012, where Obama eked out a 2-point win. The streak ended explosively on November 8, 2016, when Trump won Elliott County with more than 70% of the vote! The only somewhat surprising result of the night in Kentucky came from the Senate race, where Rand Paul was re-elected by "only" 15 points! Paul had high approval ratings in the state and his opponent was the low-profile and underfunded gay mayor of Lexington in a state where I figured male homosexuality would still be a disqualifier. The last thing I expected would be that Jim Gray would do no worse than 2014's heavily hyped Alison Lundergan Grimes who lost to Mitch McConnell by the same 15-point margin. Not quite sure what was going on there for Paul to not ride the GOP wave to a more dominating result.
Louisiana--There was little reason to expect anything other than a Trump blowout in the Pelican State and he delivered. Maxed-out black turnout in 2012 held Romney to "only" a 17-point victory. I figured black turnout would collapse and it would be Trump +23 in 2016, but the actual result was right in the middle at Trump +20. I had a fantasy scenario that Louisiana's jungle primary for the open Senate seat vacated by Republican David Vitter would produce a heavily split result in a crowded field of Republicans, allowing the two Democratic candidates to eke out the top two positions and face off against each other. Sadly that didn't happen, and the December runoff will pit Republican John Kennedy against Democrat Foster Campbell. Kennedy has proven himself a less than awesome candidate in the past but he's still a heavy favorite against a Democrat in Louisiana, and given how little chatter there is about the race next month, it's a safe bet both parties are conceding the Senate victory to Kennedy and that Republicans will prevail in the two open House seats forced into a runoff as well.
Maine--There were signs very early this cycle that the deep blue state of Maine, won by Obama by 15 points in 2016 and having been safely in the Democratic fold for the last six election cycles, was showing vulnerabilities, particularly in that northern Maine Congressional district which is so heavily white working class. Leading up to election day, the big question was whether Trump would do well enough to win that one electoral vote from the northern Congressional district, but come election night, the question became whether Trump did so well in that northern Congressional district that he'd win the entire state! I was more bearish than most with my predictions, guessing that Trump would win ME-02 by 5 points yet Hillary would still win statewide by 7. The final result was Trump +12 in ME-02 and only Hillary +3 statewide! This marks the first but probably not the last time the state's electoral votes were split and continues a frightening pattern for the state. One could call it a fluke that wildly controversial Republican Governor Paul Le Page won with 37% of the vote in a three-candidate field in 2010, but then he shocked the world and overcome disastrous approval ratings to win re-election in 2014. And now Maine ended up one of the tightest states in the country against Trump for President. It not only indicates the magnitude of Trump's appeal amongst the white working-class in every corner of the country, but suggests Maine may well be realigning back to its origins as a red state. Unsurprisingly, Democrat Emily Cain fell short by a stout 10-point margin in her attempt to topple seemingly vulnerable Republican freshman Bruce Poliquin in the northern Maine House race as well.
Maryland--Combine perfect demographics (blacks and college-educated white liberals everywhere) with the general tilt of the DC area towards anti-Trump establishmentarianism and you have what was guaranteed to be one of Hillary's best states. Still, I predicted Maryland would go even stronger for Hillary (28 points was my guess) than it did for Obama, who won by 26 points in 2012. Presumably lower black turnout hurt a bit on the edges as Hillary is currently leading by only 25 points in Maryland, although there is probably at least a little more of the vote hanging out there to count. Still a very strong result though obviously and Hillary finally picked off upscale, suburban Anne Arundel County, which has been on the precipice of flipping blue for the last couple of cycles. The big Democratic win trickled down the ballot with pinpoint precision as the open Senate seat went to Democrat Chris Van Hollen by a 24-point margin nearly identical to Hillary's while Democrats comfortably held on to their 7-1 advantage in Maryland's House districts.
Massachusetts--One of the more surprising results of the night for me was how remarkably well Hillary held up in Massachusetts compared to all of its neighboring northeastern states. The greater Boston area is well-educated so it didn't surprise me that Hillary held up there, but the more white working-class Worcester and Plymouth counties had long been trending Republican anyway and seemed poised to flip to Trump on November 8th, but remarkably went stronger for Hillary than Obama in 2012. Statewide, Obama won by 23 points, and apparently Romney's home state advantage counted for more than I thought as Hillary improved to an impressive 27-point victory, which really puts to shame my prediction of Hillary +18. This is now seven election cycles in a row where the Democrat has won all 14 counties in Massachusetts as well as 20+ years of an all-Democratic Congressional delegation as all nine of the state's House Democrats prevailed comfortably as well, with most of them running unopposed.
Michigan--As I said in my opening paragraph, Michigan was one of the night's biggest stunners. Embarrassingly for me, I wrote a specific blog post last spring talking about how Michigan was likely far too heavily of a lift for Trump and his Rust Belt strategy. Of course I had counted on Hillary actually litigating the state and the issues important to them before the last few days of the campaign, rather than letting Trump dominate the bully pulpit over the issue, which she didn't. Voters have very short memories generally, but it's still jarring that a state dependent on a vibrant auto industry had so quickly forgotten that the Democratic Party totally saved their bacon only seven years ago with the bailout for General Motors and Chrysler. Alas, the issue never came up and Trump's phony populism quietly found an audience as he stole the Democrats' base right out from under their noses, and by the time Hillary realized she might have a problem it was too late to fix it. Even on election morning, despite my uneasy feeling the race was closing for Trump, I still didn't figure it was mathematically possible for Trump to win the state. When I saw the tied exit polls for Michigan at 8 p.m. poll closing time though, I knew it was over for Hillary nationally. And to be clear, it's the one state that still hasn't been called, but Trump is more than 11,000 votes ahead and it seems like a very tall order that Hillary could make that up with the provisional ballots left to be counted. Obama won Michigan by 9 points and I believed the relatively sparse public polls enough to project a Hillary +7 result, although come election day I'd have revised that margin to more like Hillary +2 as it was clear Trump had made a race out of it based on the campaigns' mutual behavior. As of November 19, the race stands at Trump +0.2, the closest result in the nation, with Hillary reduced to an embarrassing eight county victories compared to Obama's 20, with Trump making gains in Detroit, smaller cities, and rural areas alike. Democrats had a couple of House seat targets they hoped to pick up in the event of a wave as well, one in particular in Bart Stupak's old district on the Upper Peninsula, but since the wave went the other way, the Democrats got blown out of the water in both races.
Minnesota--Democrats got their first warning of a realigning Gopher State in 2014 when, despite decisive victories for Governor Mark Dayton and Senator Al Franken at the top of the ticket, a surge of Republican victories in outstate Minnesota helped the GOP pick up the state House. Fast forward to 2016 and all the stories I read seemed to be about Hillary's dominating margins in the metro area. There were rumors that outstate Minnesota was trending dramatically towards Trump, but the internals of several polls I looked over weren't showing a tidal wave, but I figured it was coming. And boy did it, way worse than I could have ever imagined as nearly every square inch of Minnesota outside of the immediate Minneapolis-St. Paul area turned into Trumpland. The huge victory for Hillary in the Twin Cities did materialize and helped her barely win the state, but it was the most lopsided urban-rural divide that I've ever seen in the state by a country mile. One of the Democrats' primary assets in Minnesota is their strength in various regions of the state, allowing them to be competitive in Congressional and legislative races in regions where the demographics would indicate would be uncompetitively Republican in most other states. That advantage might be on its final leg as several rural Democratic legislators were tossed out of office and, instead of bouncing Democrats back into power in the state House as many expected, they've now lost both houses of the legislature. Meanwhile, the state's three rural Congressional Democrats all had close shaves. Rick Nolan in northeastern Minnesota was expected to have a close race, and his half-percent victory facing the anti-Hillary headwinds was very impressive, but southern Minnesota's Tim Walz and western Minnesota's Collin Peterson both faced unfunded, token opposition that nonetheless held Peterson to a 5-point win and held Walz, stunningly, to a victory of less than one percentage point. Democrat Angie Craig was expected to win an open seat in the southern suburbs but she got upset by Republican Jason Davis, a weak candidate who nonetheless defeated Craig by 2 points. The fresh wound of the Obamacare-related MNSure's huge premium hike announced a couple of weeks before the election likely magnified the Democrats' problems in Minnesota, but there's more going on than that and the Democrats better figure things out as they're unlikely to be able to count on a 250,000+ vote advantage out of Hennepin and Ramsey counties to save them every two years! Obama won Minnesota by 8 points in 2012, and I predicted Hillary +6 this year, based on her dramatic advantage in the metro area. The end result was Hillary +1, with Trump picking off 19 counties that Obama won four years ago in all corners of the state.
Mississippi--Far less to report in the Magnolia State where Democrats had their highwater mark in 2012, holding Romney to an 11-point win based on black turnout being far above that of whites. I figured a more traditional electorate would show up in 2016, predicting a Trump +17 result when the actual result managed to go 2 points redder, going Trump +19, a result not seen since 2004. With Democrats now getting no better than 10% of the vote among Mississippi whites, these 20-point GOP routs are likely the new normal except in years where black turnout is robust, which won't happen often given the hopelessness of their vote counting in such a racially polarized state.
Missouri--In the immediate aftermath of Trump's "Access Hollywood" tape release, there were a couple of polls showing Hillary just a couple of points behind Trump in the Show Me State, but I never bought it. And in the final week before the election it was clear that Missouri's lurch to the far right was continuing on schedule, and I predicted Trump would win by 13 points, better than Romney's 9-point victory. Even that proved too soft though as Trump prevailed by a dominating 19 points. It was odd how Trump underperformed on the Kansas side of the Kansas City metro area but did better than Romney on the Missouri side. Beyond that, suburban St. Louis (formerly the political stomping grounds of Dick Gephardt) continues to race to the GOP while every square inch of rural Missouri has gotten as red as rural Kansas, a gigantic transformation compared to 20 years ago. So now we stand in 2016, with what was a swing state a couple short cycles ago now quite a bit more conservative than Texas. I had high hopes for the state's Senate race even though I always considered it fool's gold, despite reports that impressive young Democratic candidate Jason Kander was poised to take out Republican incumbent Roy Blunt. In the end, Kander got within 3 points, running an amazing 8 points ahead of Hillary but still falling decisively short and having no success in cracking into Missouri's intractably conservative rural areas. Just as bad if not worse, Republicans also came from behind to seize the Missouri statehouse with the victory by Republican Eric Greitens, who won by 6 points in a race where he trailed badly just a few weeks earlier. One more state with all Republican government that's now likely to become a right-to-work state.
Montana--Here's another state where Democrats thought they might have a chance right after Trump's "Access Hollywood" tape, although here there never any indication by any poll that Hillary had a chance. Romney won the state by 14 points in 2012 after a very narrow GOP win in 2008, but Montana never felt remotely like Hillary country to me so I predicted Trump +22 and I ended up pretty close with the Trump +20 result. Democrat Denise Juneau came up short in her bid to be the nation's first Native American female member of Congress in the state's at-large House district, losing by 16 points in a long shot race that showed some minor signs of becoming competitive. Montana Democrats walked away with one victory though as incumbent Democratic Governor Steve Bullock held on to score a 4-point win despite the Trump landslide at the top of the ticket. The Democrats have a remarkable streak of winning a lot of close elections in Montana despite its reputation as a Republican-leaning state, and this gubernatorial race is the latest example.
Nebraska--The Cornhusker State has always been one of the nation's most Republican states and that streak continued in 2016 even though the state's two largest cities, Omaha and Lincoln, narrowly flipped to Hillary. Romney won Nebraska by 22 points in 2012 and I predicted Trump would win by 23. Despite the improved Democratic numbers in Omaha, Trump cleaned up elsewhere in the state and won by 26 points statewide. The Democrats held out hope they could pick up the electoral vote from the Omaha Congressional district but fell just a bit short. Even worse for Democrats, their accidental Congressman Brad Ashford who snuck into office in 2014 against an unpopular Republican incumbent was defeated by 2 points by this year's Republican challenger, once again giving Nebraska an all-Republican Congressional delegation and next to no hope for Democrats to regain any level of competitiveness in the state.
Nevada--The storyline coming out of Nevada this year is that it was one of few bright spots nationally for Democrats and in most respects that's true as Democrats held onto Harry Reid's Senate race in a hard-fought race, picked up two GOP-held House districts, and also recaptured both the state Senate and state House that were lost in the 2014 midterm bloodbath. But at the top of the ballot, the result was weaker than most anticipated. With the help of savvy Las Vegas political report Jon Ralston and a huge amount of early voting complete with party ID figures to glean likely results from, the conclusion was that Hillary was well-positioned to match Obama's 7-point statewide margin in 2014. I predicted Hillary +4 but even I ended up giving her too much credit as the final result was Hillary +2. What happened? It turns out that an astonishing 29% of the Hispanic vote went for Trump and the "cow counties" produced a collective margin far margin than anyone though possible, blunting Hillary's advantage in Las Vegas and Reno. A win's a win but a state that seemed a demographic lock for Democrats is the latest to experience a consolidated backlash that keeps on raising the Republican ceiling. Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto prevailed by the same 2-point margin that Hillary did against Republican Joe Heck, while Heck's open suburban Vegas Congressional district flipped to Democrats as did a majority-minority district where Republicans scored an upset amidst low Democratic turnout in 2014.
New Hampshire--One of the state's I most misjudged this cycle was New Hampshire. While there were certainly a few blue-collar bastions in the northern part of the state that seemed likely to vote similarly to neighboring northern Maine, the demographics of New Hampshire are heavily libertarian and college-educated, particularly the southeast corner of the state bordering Massachusetts which has recently been the state's most conservative region. I said already that Massachusetts went very strongly for Hillary, so everything checked out for a win comparable to or better than Obama's 5-point New Hampshire victory in 2012. I predicted Hillary +6 when I made my final predictions a few weeks before the election. But after the Comey letter dropped, just about all of the polls began showing New Hampshire a tie, and in this case the polls ended up being right as the vote kept getting counted all night and into the morning before the state was called for Hillary by a 0.4% margin, or fewer than 3,000 votes. As was case in so many places, those college-educated whites in southeast New Hampshire didn't turn out in the expected numbers for Hillary, meaning she had to stitch together her narrow win from only four of the state's 10 counties, the same four that went for Al Gore when he narrowly lost the state in 2000. And close as the Presidential race seemed, it was a landslide compared to the Senate race where Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan eked past Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte by around 700 votes, or a 0.1% margin, one of only two Senate seats the Democrats ended up picking up when most analysts figured they were on their way to a 5-7-seat pickup only two weeks earlier. Democrats also got good news when former Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, who's been bouncing in and out of Congress pretty much every two years since 2006, trading the seat with Republican Frank Guinta once again, this time with a margin that actually exceeded one percentage point! But the Democrats' luck with extremely narrow victories in New Hampshire did not extend to the open gubernatorial race where Republican John Sununu managed a 2-point margin of victory and ended the Democrats' long stay at the New Hampshire statehouse. Overall though, a state that typically swings from one wave election to another ended up split pretty much right down the middle in 2016.
New Jersey--Obama's 18-point victory in New Jersey four years ago seemed like a highwater mark, brought about by a well-received response to Hurricane Sandy only days before the election, that would be very unlikely to duplicate. Plus I figured Trump's blue-collar appeal would find an audience in Jersey, predicting it would end up Hillary +12. Hillary did a little better than I expected with a 14-point victory, with some erosion among white ethnics just as I figured was likely, but a coalition that looked largely similar to what Democrats have been getting in Jersey for a generation now. The only other news in New Jersey is that Republican Scott Garrett, a House incumbent deemed too socially conservative for his suburban district hugging the New York border, was felled by a 3-point margin.
New Mexico--Gary Johnson got 9% of the vote in his home state, his best result in the country. There was some fear that he would poach disproportionately from Hillary but there wasn't a lot of evidence that that was the case. Obama won New Mexico by 10 points in 2012 while Hillary won by 8 points in 2016, consistent with the movement nationally and nearly consistent with my Hillary +9 prediction. Of course, New Mexico is the most heavily Hispanic state in the country so perhaps Hillary's margin should have improved the way neighboring Arizona and Texas did. The suburbs of Albuquerque saw the biggest movement away from Hillary but also saw the best numbers for Gary Johnson, so it's hard to get a really good read on it. Nothing going on downballot as incumbents ruled in the three House seats.
New York--Donald Trump suggested several months ago that he could put several states in play where Republicans normally don't compete, including New York. This scenario was rightly laughed off and Trump certainly didn't win New York, but take away New York City and he would have. Obama had a comprehensive 28-point win in 2012 that entailed both the city and upstate. I predicted a 20-point Hillary win this year with a stark urban-rural divide and came very close to the Hillary +21 result. Back in 2006, Hillary Clinton was re-elected Senator of New York with a sweeping victory that covered all but a couple counties in the state, but this year her domination of the four main boroughs of New York City proved to define her victory as her numbers upstate more closely resembled New York election maps of the 1970s and 1980s with little blue specs in a few population centers. Rural northeastern New York had been trending heavily Democratic in several recent cycles but moved dramatically to Trump on November 8th, and while Hillary hung on narrowly in Erie County, the Buffalo area also saw considerable movement to the GOP. She even lost white ethnics in Greater New York City, leading to Staten Island and Suffolk County on Long Island to go Trump. And so New York's former Senator only won 16 of New York's 72 counties in her victory, fewer than John Kerry's 21 in 2004. Downballot, Senator Chuck Schumer was re-elected with more than 70% of the vote and a comprehensive city and upstate coalition resembling Hillary's 2006 map. But Hillary's weakness upstate provided no coattails that may have toppled a few vulnerable GOP-held House seats, all of which stayed in GOP hands.
North Carolina--Another of the night's most disappointing states for Democrats was the Tar Heel state, where Hillary had led in just about every single poll the entire season yet still fell far short of victory. Obama exceeded expectations in North Carolina four years ago and held Romney to a 2-point victory, but the polling always seemed too good to be true this year and my call was Trump by less than 1 point. My intuition was right, but it wasn't even really close as Trump ended up winning by 4 points, with black turnout down considerably and college-educated whites not voting strongly enough for Hillary to flip the script. In the end, North Carolina was barely less red than Georgia, spelling out that despite Democrats' heightened competitiveness in the state, the GOP backlash vote is solidifying and keeping their vote ceiling high. Democrats had always hoped they could pick off vulnerable GOP Senator Richard Burr this year as well, despite a second-tier candidate recruit, but Burr prevailed by an even more comfortable 6-point margin, again considerably more than polls indicated. The only good news for Democrats is that Roy Cooper appears likely to beat Republican Governor Pat McCrory in the gubernatorial race, but the final call has not been made with Cooper leading by more than 5,000 votes in a race Cooper was expected to be a few points ahead going into election day. None of the state's heavily gerrymandered House races were competitive.
North Dakota--I was under no illusion that North Dakota would be Hillary country this year but was taken by the smashing victory Trump pulled off there along with every other Republican on the ballot in a state that only 10 years ago gave us an all-Democratic Congressional delegation. Romney won by just under 20 points in 2012, at the peak of the state's booming oil economy, and I figured Trump would build on that and predicted a 27-point Trump victory, but my mind was blown when results rolled in showing a Trump +36 result, the biggest GOP margin of victory in North Dakota since 1984. It was an even bigger massacre in the Senate and Governor's race where incumbent Senator John Hoeven and GOP gubernatorial nominee Doug Burgum both won with more than 75% (!!) of the vote. Maybe North Dakota voters will have gotten this out of their system strongly enough to re-elect Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp in 2018 but she's definitely got a race on her hands to swim against the state's rising partisan tide that now more closely resembles Idaho and Wyoming than the North Dakota of a decade ago.
Ohio--America's quintessential swing state didn't look so swingy in 2016. I predicted at the beginning of the cycle that Ohio would be Trump country and most indicators pointed that direction throughout the campaign, as Hillary was underperforming in the Buckeye State even at her campaign's apex, but for some reason plenty of analysts insisted till the end that they figured Hillary may eke out a win there. In 2012, Obama demagogued Romney's private equity background and rode his own successful auto bailout to a 3-point victory in Ohio, but with the steel industry struggling and all kinds of anecdotal indications that unemployed steelworkers were warm to Trump's rhetoric, I predicted a Trump +2 outcome in 2016. If only. Hillary's weakness with working-class whites was dramatically understated and Trump will likely have an 8-point victory once the provisional ballots are counted. The Democrats' base vote in northeastern Ohio got hijacked worst, particularly in the Youngstown-Warren, Canton, and Lorain areas. Hillary outperformed Obama in the increasingly Democratic and upscale Columbus area but couldn't fight off the Trump tide in the rest of the state. Meanwhile, Democrat Ted Strickland, long thought to be the perfect Democrat for Ohio, ran a piss-poor campaign and lost by an astonishing 21 points to GOP Senator Rob Portman. The state's heavily gerrymandered House districts didn't see any change. I've long suspected Ohio is poised to begin leaning red rather than being a national bellwether and this election certainly confirmed that suspicion. It's blue-collar economy will continue to struggle, meaning there will likely be an occasional backlash against Republicans when they hold too much power and don't deliver, but I suspect the state will more closely resemble Indiana politically than Michigan moving forward.
Oklahoma--This deeply conservative state shifted to an entirely new hue of red during the Bush years to the point of wall-to-wall noncompetitiveness. Not a single Oklahoma county has gone blue in any of the last four Presidential elections, and in the last three elections, no Democrat has even gotten to within 10 points of victory!!! Romney won Oklahoma by 34 points and I predicted an even stronger Trump +38 this year. I overshot just a bit as the end result was Trump +36, as statewide numbers appear to be plateauing amidst an internal realignment. Two decades ago, vast stretches of rural eastern and southern Oklahoma were Democratic while the urban centers of Oklahoma City and Tulsa were among the most Republican big cities in America. While OKC and Tulsa are still red, GOP margins are shrinking a bit there due to diversification while those rural areas that used to be strongly Democrat are now getting redder and redder with each cycle. Republican Senator Jim Lankford was re-elected by an even more robust 43 points on November 8th.
Oregon--I correctly calculated that working-class whites in the northeast were likely to move Trump's direction just as was the case in the Midwest, but for whatever reason I didn't expect the Pacific Northwest would see a similar shift, as I am perhaps biased in my impression of Oregon through the prism of Portland's granola environment. Whatever the case, I expected Hillary would see growth upon the Obama +13 result of 2012 and predicted a Hillary +17 victory this year. In fact, Hillary backslid a bit and won by 11 points, with final results not yet official. Oregon is no longer the swing state it was in 2000 and 2004, but her losses in several blue-collar timber counties that went handily for Obama was a good reminder that there's likely to be some residual backlash downstate to state's trajectory as Portlandland. Democratic Senator Ron Wyden was re-elected by 23 points, but even he didn't see the sweeping geographical victory across the state that he's pulled off in past elections, pretty much striking out in eastern Oregon. The Democrats continued to maintain their 4-1 advantage in the state's House delegation though.
Pennsylvania--Moving onto another state I couldn't have possibly been more wrong about, I specifically singled out the Keystone State last spring as a firewall for Hillary against Trump's "Rust Belt strategy" because I figured he'd be so thoroughly unthinkable in suburban Philadelphia that he'd have no path to victory statewide. Throughout most of the cycle, public polling validated my theory suggesting Hillary was dominating the Philadelphia suburbs with unprecedented numbers and shutting down Trump's ability to compete statewide. This narrative held up until the final week when Hillary was suddenly spending an awful lot of time campaigning in Pennsylvania. Like Michigan, her campaign argued that most Pennsylvania voting occurred on Election Day so it made sense to campaign where the most votes were still up for grabs. But also like Michigan, I got a bad feeling Trump was closing hard the night before the election and figured it would be close, despite public polling consistently showing Hillary comfortably ahead. My Hillary +6 prediction made three weeks earlier was now obsolete, but I was very confident she'd still hold on. There was a solid amount of movement Romney's way amongst blue-collar voters, particularly in western Pennsylvania, when Obama won the state by 5 points in 2012, but I vastly underestimated the degree to which the bottom would fall out for Hillary in just about every corner of rural Pennsylvania, with former deep blue steel and coal counties in southwest PA going 2-1 Trump and the former Obama stronghold of Scranton barely hanging on for Hillary, while the neighboring Wilkes-Barre area flipped dramatically Trump. Had the promised margins in the Philadelphia suburbs materialized, Wilkes-Barre, Erie, and Aliquippah wouldn't have mattered, but Hillary barely outperformed Obama in those suburban counties and it ended up not being enough, leading to the unthinkable outcome of a Trump +1 victory in Pennsylvania. The carnage rolled downballot as Pat Toomey, the vulnerable Republican Senator I believed would be felled, held on by less than 2 points as well. It may be a little too early to decree that Pennsylvania is now a straight-up swing state rather than the blue-tilting state it's been for a generation, but if the Democrats are fighting to hold onto Scranton and Erie, even in a Presidential cycle, they definitely have problems. Even Democratic Congressman Matt Cartwright was held to a single-digit win in his Scranton-area House district that was gerrymandered specifically to be a Democratic vote sink. Hopefully the Democrats finally got the message about the need to reach out to the working-class, but of course the flip side of that, particularly in a state like Pennsylvania, is that a populist Democratic appeal is likely to alienate Chester County and the Main Line, which Democrats also need to win statewide.
Rhode Island--I certainly got a few things wrong this cycle, but one thing I saw coming was that the working-class Italian Democrats in Rhode Island would cotton to Donald Trump in a way they rarely do with Republicans. I knew Hillary would still handily win, but Obama's 28-point victory in 2012 wasn't gonna be replicated. I predicted Hillary +16 and was dead on the nose with the final result, a figure that's every bit as shocking as the movement towards Trump in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, but not making any headlines since Hillary still won the state decisively. Kent County, home of Warwick and Cranston, is the epicenter of Rhode Island's working-class Italian vote. They've gone Democratic by double-digit margins in the last six Presidential elections but flipped to Trump this year. Massachusetts and Rhode Island usually vote pretty close to lockstep and I figured they'd both swing right this year, but only Rhode Island did as Massachusetts actually moved left.
South Carolina--Few believed Hillary had a chance of winning South Carolina, but most believed Trump would not appeal to the country club Republicans in coastal Myrtle Beach and Charleston, giving Hillary a chance to make inroads. I was one of them, expecting a Trump +8 victory, narrower than the Romney +11 result of 2012. Instead, South Carolina swung the other way, with Trump winning by 14 points. Lower black turnout coupled with college-educated whites sticking with the GOP helped drive the state a deeper shade of red. Republican Senator Tim Scott prevailed with more than 60% against his token opponent.
South Dakota--Polling suggested South Dakota would be a tick better for Hillary than it was for Obama four years ago, but I wasn't buying it as South Dakota really did not feel like Hillary country to me. Glad I followed my intuition rather than the polls when making my predictions. Romney's 18-point win in 2012 seems downright competitive compared to Trump's 30-point South Dakota romp on November 8th (I predicted Trump +22 by the way). Sioux Falls seems like the prototypical place where college-educated whites should have been a feather in Hillary's cap but Trump dominated by double digits even there, as well as killing it in the farm counties. The county map looked like 2000, when Al Gore got pasted in South Dakota, rather than recent cycles, as disastrously low turnout on Indian reservations helped magnify the size of Trump's statewide victory. It can't be overstated how much more effective Obama's get-out-the-vote operation ended up being than Hillary's, and low-propensity voting jurisdictions like Indian Reservations really shine a light on that. Downballot, Senator John Thune dominated even more than Trump, winning more than 70% of the vote. South Dakota's days of McGovern and Daschle-style prairie populism seem to be over.
Tennessee--Al Gore's home state continues to lurch deeper and deeper into the far-right abyss, with only Memphis, Nashville, and a single majority-black rural county in West Tennessee left in the Democratic coalition. With the cluster of Yellow Dog Democratic counties along the Tennessee River Valley and the Cumberland Plateau now realigned solidly Republican, it's hard to imagine any path to victory for any present or future Democratic candidate in the Volunteer State. Romney won Tennessee by 20 points in 2012, and since GOP margins seem to go no direction but bigger in Tennessee, I predicted a Trump +25 result for 2016. Tennesseans outdid me by a point and went Trump +26. A West Tennessee Congressional seat held by Democrats for decades and as recently as 2010 was an open seat this year and went 69-25 to the Republican, which is pretty much all that needs to be said about the direction the state has moved politically and shows no signs of returning from.
Texas--One of the reasons Hillary won the popular vote nationally is her impressive inroads in the Lone Star State. She still lost it decisively but it was the narrowest GOP victory in the state since 1996. Romney won the state by 16 points and while I figured a higher turnout among Hispanics would shrink that margin, I wasn't expecting a huge shift and predicted Trump +14. But lo and behold, Trump won it by only 9 points, with particularly huge shifts towards Hillary in metropolitan Houston. The state's county map otherwise doesn't look much different as the vote shifting came almost entirely from larger Hillary margins in metro areas. Interestingly, the Mexican border counties which are 95% Hispanic actually gave smaller margins to Hillary than they did Obama, again reinforcing the extent to which white backlash orthodoxy has more resonance among Hispanics than most believed. The lack of complete GOP meltdown in the Rio Grande Valley helped keep Texas's 23rd Congressional district, the only competitive House district among 36 in the state, in GOP hands. The bottom line is that Texas is a very long way's from becoming a battleground state, despite optimistic Democrats who think it could happen as soon as 2020, but the fact that it had the second-biggest shift in the country towards Hillary compared to four years ago is a worthy starting point.
Utah--I just noted that Texas had the second-biggest shift towards Democrats this election, but the biggest shift by a considerable degree was the state of Utah, but things aren't quite as they seem as native Utahn Evan McMullin ran as an independent conservative and was a perfect protest vote for Utah conservatives who couldn't stomach Trump. At one point in October, it looked like McMullin might win Utah, but I figured he'd fade in the home stretch as most third-party candidates do. He still got 21% of the vote, the first time since Ross Perot that a third-party candidate has hit double-digits in any state. Hillary got second place but only managed 28% of the vote, only 4 points better than Obama in 2012. Mitt Romney was a Mormon and headed the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, so he got mad love from Utah voters, winning the state by an astonishing 48 points. I predicted Trump +25 for this year but McMullin held up a little better than I expected and Trump ended up winning by only 18 points, even though he was held to only 45% of the vote. Utah's not wavering in its Republican bona fides downballot though, as Tea Party Senator Mike Lee, figured nominally vulnerable at one point, went on to romp by a more than 2-1 margin in his re-election bid, while Congresswoman Mia Love, whose repeatedly gotten a cool reception in her heavily Republican district, managed her strongest yet 12-point margin in her Salt Lake City-based district.
Vermont--Based on the trendline of recent election cycles and the state's granola demographics, I figured the Trump wave would bypass Vermont entirely, and at least in terms of Trump's share of the vote, it did. But when I predicted Hillary would match Obama's 36-point margin in the state, I didn't count on the YYUUUGE third-party vote, which included more than 20,000 write-in votes for Bernie Sanders in a state with only 315,000 voters. As a result, Hillary was held to only 57% of the overall vote in Vermont, and since almost all of the third-party votes and write-ins were likely subtracted from Hillary's column, Hillary only managed a 26-point margin in the state, meaning a few states jumped ahead of Vermont in line for the size of the Democratic margin, after Vermont had been second only to Hawaii the last two cycles. And while Democrat Pat Leahy won by a similar 2-1 margin running for his umptieth Senate term, his margin was a little softer than usual as well. The only unfortunate result for Vermont Democrats was one that they saw coming long ago though, as Republican Phil Scott won the Governor's race by a solid 9 points in an open seat vacated by embattled Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin.
Virginia--There was some speculation at the apex of Hillary's polling leads that Virginia could go for her by double-digits. The demographics certainly seemed right for it and I bought into the hype a little myself, not taking into account that polling has been overly generous to Democrats in Virginia quite consistently in the last few cycles. Obama won the state by 4 points in 2012 and I predicted Hillary +8 this time. But college-educated whites didn't quite go as dominatingly for Hillary as expected, while the Tidewater region got a touch redder and the bottom completely fell out for Hillary in the Shenandoah Valley and southwestern Virginia, leading to a Hillary +5 final result. It was still an impressive result given how deeply red the state was a generation ago when it voted twice against Bill Clinton. Still, it's been clear for awhile that as northern Virginia, Tidewater, and Richmond go one way, the rest of the state is racing the other way to contradict them. The Democrats are on a long winning streak in Virginia and it's likely to continue but it doesn't seem likely that they'll be able to completely pull away from the GOP the way it looked like Hillary might this year. Downballot, a court-mandated mid-decade redistricting allowed the Democrats to pick up a Republican-held seat in the Richmond area, but their efforts to pick off an upscale, suburban DC district based on anti-Trump sentiment fell short as Republican Barbara Comstock held on.
Washington--As with Oregon, I erroneously figured the laws of political gravity regarding the white working-class vote didn't apply in the Pacific Northwest, but Trump ended up making inroads even on the "Left Coast" as a handful of blue-collar counties in Washington state's southwest quadrant (Grays Harbor, Cowlitz, and Pacific included) flipped to Trump after decades as Democratic strongholds. Of course, it's metropolitan Seattle that rules the day in Washington and they delivered in a major way for Hillary Clinton. Obama won Washington by 16 points in 2012, and I figured Hillary would improve on that and win by 19 points. Instead, pending a final result with a small percentage of the vote left uncounted, Hillary is currently leading by 15, a point worse than Obama. While it's still hard to believe Washington was a swing state as recently as 2000, it's still jarring that Trump's populist bromides found a receptive audience even in this rapidly blue-trending state. Downballot, Democratic Senator Patty Murray won re-election by nearly 20 points and the Democrats held on to their 6-4 House majority. Democratic Governor Jay Inslee won a second term by 9 points and maintained the Democrats' decadeslong stranglehold on the Washington statehouse.
West Virginia--One of the most Democratic states in the country 20 years ago, West Virginia is now one of the most Republican states in the country, and at least some of their grievances with national Democrats are entirely rational. Romney won the state by 27 points four years ago, and I knew that was only the beginning of the state's stampede to the GOP, predicting Trump to win by 42 points this year as his bluster and message were perfect for the state's angry and cynical mood. My prediction was right on the nose at Trump +42, with all 55 of the state's counties going Trump just as they did last time, this year with Hillary not getting within 10 points in any of the counties. In the last couple of cycles, Democrats have been losing ground even in downticket races, making it all the more amazing that Democrat Jim Justice managed to hold the statehouse for his party, winning the gubernatorial race by 7 points. Of course, the caveat with Justice is that he's a coal company owner, making him perhaps the only "Democrat" who could have won statewide in West Virginia in the current environment.
Wisconsin--The Badger State was without question the most unpleasant surprise for Democrats on election night. Losing Florida and North Carolina was unexpected but not completely mind-blowing, while it was clear in the final days of the campaign that Michigan and Pennsylvania were closing for Trump, but Trump had specifically scrapped a planned rally in Wisconsin in the weekend before the election, presumably because his own internal polling showed him too far behind to bother. The exit polls at 8:00 poll closing showed Hillary poised for a modest win in Wisconsin. But then the votes started rolling in and Trump was overperforming in pretty much every swing area while underperforming in most Democratic areas. By the time midnight rolled around, it was pretty clear the unimaginable was about to become real.....Trump was gonna win Wisconsin. Four years earlier, Obama won Wisconsin by 7 points, and my prediction of Hillary +5 was in line with polling right till the bitter end. Somehow, some way, one of the states that most soundly rejected Trump in the primaries had gone Trump +1 on November 8th. And this happened even with far softer than usual margins for Trump in the "Circle of Ignorance" GOP strongholds encircling Milwaukee. The Badger State delivered one final kick in the crotch for Democrats by re-electing Ron Johnson, written off by his own party as a lost cause only three weeks before the election and having trailed my more than 5 points in every public poll for an entire year before he started catching up in late October. Johnson won by 3 points, more than Trump did, even though everybody including me kept convincing ourselves till the bitter end that Feingold was gonna pull it out simply because the comeback Johnson was mounting at such a late hour was so surreal and without precedent in recent American history. Searching through the archives, I can't find another example of an incumbent Senator trailing in the polls as poorly as Johnson was a month before the election and coming back to win. The closest I could find was Jesse Helms in 1990, but at no point was he trailing as badly as Ron Johnson was. For the life of me, I can't understand what happened here. Wisconsin's shift to the hard right continues, a terrifying pattern in a state with such a progressive tradition, apparently undeterred by the monstrous governance of Scott Walker and continuing to come back for more radical conservatism.
Wyoming--On top of every other contributor to Wyoming's stature as a Republican stronghold, it's also the nation's largest coal-producing state, pushing its politics even further to the right. Wyoming was the nation's most Republican state in 2008 but ceded that trophy to Utah in 2012 based on Romney's parochial appeal. Wyoming gets the crown back for 2016 though as I predicted. Romney won Wyoming by 41 points and I predicted a Trump +45 result this year. I was only off by one from the actual result of Trump +46.
So there it is, the postmortem of the third disastrous election night of the last four cycles. Going back to 2002, this makes five out of eight. This one feels different though. The country lacked the moral compass to keep from electing a clinical sociopath to the most powerful position in the world, pretending that Hillary Clinton's e-mails represented an equivalence to the decadeslong litany of improprieties in Trump's past, not even accounting for his abhorrent and demagogic campaign. The world's last remaining "superpower" has proven itself unable and unwilling to resist the whims of a fourth-rate con man, providing a chilling window into the fragility of the experiment of democracy and how easily it can be discredited by the willful elevation of a monster. Worse yet, said monster and his surrogates control every institution of power in our government, with the same voters having given him a relative blank check to steer policy according to his vision for generations to come through the judicial appointments he's poised to make. Even if voters feel immediate buyer's remorse for putting this huckster and his wrecking crew in charge of the country, the amount of damage they can do in just a couple of years could prove itself nearly impossible to reverse. The devolution of our democratic process was reduced to the maturity of a game show, with no less than a reality TV star leading the way for the affront to the functioning of civilized society that was this campaign. Trump's disgusting campaign deserves half of the blame here....but the unthinkable immaturity of the American electorate thinking a man of this pedigree can become President and be a zero-consequence proposition deserve the other half.
And while it seems rather frivolous to point a finger at Hillary Clinton in light of Trump and the country's far greater complicity in the long national nightmare that awaits, it must be said that she ran a terrible and arrogant campaign. Her bunker mentality about her e-mail server while Secretary of State a year and a half ago made it seem as if she had something truly pernicious to hide when all she did was take some bad advice by a predecessor to do an end-run around the State Department's technological inconveniences. It shouldn't have been a big deal....but Hillary's secrecy made it a big deal. After that, she chose to run an insular campaign about nothing, never breaking a sweat or bothering to give the country anything to rally behind. A friend asked me over the summer what Hillary planned to do as President....and I struggled to come up with anything affirmative. The irony is she had very detailed plans on just about every issue--compared to Trump who had a three-note campaign and a policy platform that could fit on a single sheet of paper--but none of it broke through in a way that motivated voters to cast a ballot for her instead of against Trump. She sneeringly referred to "half" of Trump's supporters as a "basket of deplorables" at a high-dollar fund-raiser with elites, a gigantic gaffe that confirmed the worst stereotypes of Hillary specifically and modern liberals generally. She went on to win all three of the debates on points, but failed to read where the electorate was on key issues and let Trump get the better of her--before, during, and after the debates--on the issues motivating the voters who would decide the election. And after those debate victories, when the election still seemed hers to lose, she still phoned it in with the laziest possible campaign, ignoring entirely the Middle American working stiffs whose Trump campaign was directed towards. She knew he had a "Rust Belt strategy", yet her campaign barely set foot in the Rust Belt, oblivious to the fact that the Democratic base was getting pulled away right under her nose. Al Gore's milquetoast 2000 campaign seemed like a masterpiece by comparison, and Hillary and her surrounding team of arrogant insiders were so out of touch with Middle America that by conventional metrics she didn't deserve to win.
To be fair, messaging is always tough when following a President of your own party, even in the best of times when the outgoing President is popular, because voters always crave a change message and the challenger always has a more linear change argument than the emissary of the incumbent party who has to shoehorn an awkward "things are great now and we must continue them....but also make things better" narrative to prevail. It doesn't happen often and November 8th was the latest reminder why. Still, the unhinged opposition party has never in recent American history served up such a perfect meatball for Hillary to have knocked out of the park, but she still struck out in the most painful way with incalculable repercussions. With that in mind, it's impossible not to resent the arrogance that oozed from her campaign and made the elevation of the most unqualified President in American history by orders of magnitude possible. And nobody has any idea where the Democrats go from here as "President Hillary Clinton" was their all-or-nothing gamble, a gamble that rolled snake eyes. I'm sure I'll still be excited about pending elections in future cycles, but this one really has jaded me, both in terms of the unprecedented gullibility of voters and the fact that elections in the foreseeable future are likely not to matter given the damage that will come from this one has done.