. . .to quote the LGM post, “The Story of the 2016 Elections is That Republicans Voted Republican.” Scott Lemieux, after quoting Steve Schale at length (more on him in a minute) concludes thusly:
One thing the Clinton campaign got wrong — and I’m not saying it was unreasonable to think this, because I, like most people, thought the same thing — is its assumption that enough suburban Republicans and Republican-leaners would find Trump distasteful enough to put Clinton in the White House. This just didn’t happen. Trump maintained Romney’s base and picked up enough additional white suburbanites to win. In Florida, at least, Trump didn’t win because Clinton failed to get the Democratic base out, and in general initial reports of low turnout appear to have been greatly exaggerated. Political science took a (justified!) beating during the primaries, but 2016 was, despite all of the assumptions, pretty much a fundamentals-and-partisanship election. Trump did underperform (or Clinton did overperform, or some combination of the two) the fundamentals to a small extent, but because of the Electoral College won anyway. But the significant Republican defections that might have been expected from an unusually dishonest and scandal-plagued candidate just didn’t happen.
And, of course, a key factor is that amazingly enough voters considered Trump more honest than Clinton, which is why I have less than no patience with people who deny that the obsessive media coverage of EMAILS! had a significant effect on the election. (And, just to preempt the most common line of trooferism, election results have more than one cause. It’s possible that Clinton could have done something to overcome the grotesque media malpractice that normalized Trump. Feel free to propound your theory that Lena Dunham appearing on a panel cost Clinton 25 points or to use the phrase “bad messaging” or whatever you like. It doesn’t change the fact that the Both Sides Do It But Clinton Is Worse coverage pretty much eliminated the disadvantages one would assume would come from electing Trump.)
Two of my own key points in one blog post. Good job, Scott!
Lemieux quotes Steve Schale (who helped run Florida for Obama in both 2008 and 2012, so he sort of has some idea what he’s talking about) at some length. Data junkies should read the whole thing but here’s some juicy parts:
So what happened?
I often will describe Florida as a scale. Take the GOP markets (North Florida markets + Fort Myers) and in a neutral year, it will balance out the Dem markets (Miami and West Palm), and more or less, the race balances of the fulcrum of I-4. Because of the Democratic trends in Miami-Dade, the math has changed a bit: Democrats can now count on bigger margins out of their markets than the GOP can out of theirs, and thus can still win even if they lose I-4 by a little bit. This was the Obama 2012 path: the President carried a margin of about 550K votes out of his base markets, Romney was about 410K out of his, and even though Romney narrowly carried both I-4 markets, it wasn’t enough.
Which is a good way to frame the “Things that didn’t cost Hillary Florida” section:
Base turnout: Both Broward and Dade county had higher turnout rates, and the Miami media market had a higher margin for Clinton than Obama. And even with Palm Beach coming in a little short, she won her two base markets by about 75K more votes than Obama 2012, and won a slighly higher share of the vote. Broward and Dade alone combines for a 580K vote margin, and honestly, I think around 600K is pretty close to maxing out.
The Panhandle: True, Trump did win the “I-10 corridor” by more votes than Romney, but it wasn’t significant. His 345K vote margin as slighly better than Romney’s 308K, and pretty much in line with Bush 04’s 338K North Florida vote majority. And frankly, Clinton succeeded in the major North Florida objective: keep #Duuuval County close. Trump’s 6,000 vote plurality in Duval County was the best Democratic performance in a Presidential election since Carter won Duval in 1976.
Hispanics: It is true that Hispanics under-performed out west, but here in Florida, she did considerably better than Obama in the exit polls — polls that are reflective in the record margins she posted in the heavily Hispanic areas of Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange, and Osceola.
SW Florida: This was the GOP talking point during early vote: SW Florida was blowing up for Trump. And they were right, it did. But SW Florida typically has exceptionally high turnout, and high GOP margins, and in the end, Trump’s total was only about 40K votes bigger than Romney.
In fact, if you add up the 8 “partisan” markets, which make up 55% of the statewide vote, the 2016 election was basically a repeat of 2012. Trump’s margin was less than 2,000 votes better than Romney.
It was rural Florida: Trump did very well in rural Florida, but so did Romney. If you take all the counties with less than 250,000 residents, he increased Romney’s vote share by 125,000 votes — enough to make up the Obama 2012 margin — except, Clinton increased Obama’s margin in the counties with more than 750,000 residents by over 100,000 votes. In other words, rural and suburban cancel each other out. What doesn’t cancel out — midsize suburban/exurban counties, places with 250,000-750,000 residents — Trump won them by 200,000 more votes than Romney.
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So, where did he beat her? Simple: I-4, and more specifically, the 15 counties that make up suburban and exurban I-4.
Quick recap: The I-4 corridor is roughly defined as the Tampa and Orlando media markets. If you are a Democrat, win here, and you win. If you are a Republican, win big here, and you win. Given that the rest of the state in 2016 generally looked like 2012, Trump needed to win big here.
But that wasn’t necessarily easy. The urban core in the Orlando market (Orange, Osceola, and Seminole counties), is getting more Democratic quickly. In fact, in these three counties alone, Hillary Clinton extended President Obama’s 2012 margins by over 65,000 votes. So, not only does Trump have to win the I-4 markets by 75,000 votes more than Romney did in 2012 just to win, he needs to find 65,000 more to make up for urban Orlando.
Well he did, and more. Trump won the I-4 markets by more than 250K votes. Where Romney won the two-party vote share on I-4 by 2 points, Trump won it by 6 — including winning the Tampa market by 9 points.
But it was even more granular than this. If you break up the markets into two buckets: urban counties (Hillsborough, Pinellas, Orange, Osceola and Seminole), and non-urban counties, the Trump path to victory — and the challenge for Democrats, becomes even more clear.
Despite losing Pinellas County — and Trump’s significant gains there, Hillary Clinton won “urban I-4” by some 200K votes, which was more than Obama in 2008 or Obama in 2012. These counties account for about 48% of the votes on the I-4 corridor.
In the other 15, which make up the other 52% the region’s votes, Donald Trump won by 450K votes. By comparison, Romney won these counties by 220K votes, and McCain by 130K. In other words, pretty much the entire rest of the state’s election balanced out just like 2012, except one glaring place: suburban/exurban I-4. If you look back at 2004, you will see a fairly similar dynamic.
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So what comes next? Well, I will write more on that subject coming soon, but for some of us old guys, we will recognize the 2016 map as very similar to the 2004 map. In the two cycles that followed, Democrats won two statewide races, plus the Presidency, and picked up numerous seats in the Congress and Legislature? How? By reaching back into these communities and restarting the conversation. In Florida, the basic rule winning is managing margins, particularly in suburban and exurban I-4. In 04, Bush did it and won. In 08 and 12, Obama won that battle. In 16, Trump did.
The emerging story from the data early on is this – we all expected a substantial defection rate of suburban GOP voters from Trump because of his obvious problems as a credible candidate. Additionally, we also expected depressed turnout from some red voters for the same reason.
That phenomenon simply did not happen. At the end of the day, Republicans of all stripes – women, evangelicals, foreign policy hawks, moderates – stuck by their guy, deciding that however flawed he was, he was less flawed than Hillary Clinton and her email server. It wasn’t blacks, or Hispanics, or women generally, or workers, who let Hillary Clinton down. Her turnout in Florida was as good if not in many cases better than Obama in 2012.
So what did her in? According to Schale, a guy who ought to know, it was hard core Republicans in hard core GOP areas getting enthused in record numbers to vote for the vulgar talking yam.
So if I’m a Democratic partisan who wants to do what I can to put Trump in a less than advantageous position (oh wait, I am that), I say something like this:
You motherfuckers put this guy in office, your elected leaders stood by him. When he destroys our democratic institutions, our alliances, our economy, when he puts American interests abroad in peril, when he allows Paul Ryan to gut Medicare and Social Security, when he takes health insurance away from 20 million people, when he proposes to overturn abortion rights, when he proposes to try to put LGBT rights back in the box, when he persecutes Muslims, when he sets out to deport millions of immigrants and strikes fear in the hearts of tens millions of Americans, when he puts white nationalists into positions of power, ordinary Americans are going to put the blame where it belongs – on the Republican Party and the voters who put this man in office despite knowing full well he had no business being there. You own this fuckup, and you’d better control him, or American voters will make you pay come 2018 and 2020. You’ve been warned.
And what I wouldn’t do is listen to media pollyannas bleating about how we have to give Trump a chance, and how it’s undemocratic to protest him. With all due respect, if national Democratic leaders do that, I give up. Trump deserves not one inch of my respect, because he hasn’t earned it.
More on the election data as it continues to roll in.