Trump Tide Lifts All GOP Boats

President Trump
The Briefing, Vol. IV, Issue 46-

This week:

  • Where Trump expanded the GOP electorate in swing states
  • Where the Obama coalition collapsed beneath Clinton

Donald Trump was mocked and ridiculed for his claim that he could bring new voters into the GOP.

But guess what? He was right. Just as he promised, he attracted new voters in the Rust Belt to support his ticket, and the rest is history. What’s more, with a few exceptions, nearly all of Trump’s voters do seem to have supported Republicans down-ticket. Far from the disaster many had feared, the increased swing-state turnout was a tide that lifted all Republican boats.

On election night, Trump expanded the GOP base in many swing states. Clinton also did so in at least some of them, but in the most critical ones she fell far short of what Obama had been able to do.

These two factors, combined, made several competitive states closer this year, and in the cases of Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, flipped them from Democratic to Republican.

Here’s a detailed look at how Trump and Clinton did in all of this year’s election swing states (defined broadly). Vote totals may yet change in some states, but the idea here is to look at where the parties managed to substantially expand their following during this election, with an eye to future races.


These are the swing states where both Trump and Clinton exceeded their parties’ respective 2012 totals.

Florida: Trump by 114,000 votes (1.2 points)

Trump: 452,000 more votes than Romney
Clinton: 264,000 more votes than Obama

This is a rare electorally important state where Hillary Clinton managed to build substantially on Barack Obama’s majority. Clinton’s problem? Trump’s boost in turnout was far and away larger than what her team was able to produce.

If there is any state where Trump was right that he could bring in new voters, this is it — although it isn’t the only one.

Early on election night, Clinton’s team expressed satisfaction that its voters had turned out in Orlando, along the I-4 corridor, and that its margins along the Gold Coast were up to expectations. The anticipated boost in Hispanic voting, they believed, would carry her to victory. In Miami-Dade County, she expanded Obama’s margin of victory by 80,000 votes. In Broward, she added 24,000. In Orlando, she added 49,000. She even narrowed the Dem margin of loss in Collier (Naples) and Duval (Jacksonville) Counties by a few points.

But it just wasn’t enough to overcome the turnout boost that Trump got. The Hispanic vote-share increase over 2012 was just one point, and Trump’s 35 percent performance, though worse than Romney’s, proved good enough.

Trump narrowed Romney’s margin of loss in Palm Beach County, swept the Treasure Coast (turning St. Lucie County red for the first time since 1992), carried Pinellas County (St. Petersburg) and nearly all of the Gulf Coast. On top of that, he added to the GOP margin in small increments in counties throughout the state. Trump did indeed bring new voters into the process in Florida, and it added up to a victory of just under 120,000 votes.

Marco Rubio, who lost the presidential primary to Trump in the spring, ran ahead of him this time by about 200,000 votes.

Nevada: Clinton by 26,000 votes (2.4 points)

Trump: 48,000 more votes than Romney
Clinton: 6,000 more votes than Obama

Trump really did find a lot of new votes here, but Harry Reid’s political machine worked overtime to ensure that his retirement would not be taken in embarrassment.

In the end, Nevada Democrats’ strenuous focus on early voting was just good enough to carry Clinton and Senate candidate Catherine Cortez Masto across the finish line. Whatever happened in the rest of America, Reid did his part in his own state, even flipping both houses of the state legislature.

Still, Trump’s showing was good enough to suggest that there’s still some life in the Nevada GOP.


Here are the swing states where Trump surpassed Mitt Romney’s totals, expanding the party and/or winning over Democratic voters in large numbers, and where Clinton also underperformed Barack Obama’s 2012 vote totals.

Missouri: Trump by 531,000 votes (19.1 points)

Trump: 362,000 more votes than Romney
Clinton: 169,000 fewer votes than Obama

A state that has only gotten redder in recent cycles, Missouri had given Trump a slight polling scare a few weeks before the election. But it wasn’t a close race in the end.

In fact, it was a landslide in which vastly increased GOP turnout probably did help carry Sen. Roy Blunt, R, across the finish line. Trump outperformed Blunt especially in the state’s two major urban areas.

Trump improved on Romney’s margins in nearly every corner of the state, and probably also helped elect Eric Greitens, R, governor.

Now that it finally has a Republican governor, Missouri is very likely to become the next right-to-work state, unless Kentucky (whose state house flipped to the GOP) gets there first.

North Carolina: Trump by 178,000 votes (3.8 points)

Trump: 69,000 more votes than Romney
Clinton: 16,000 fewer votes than Obama

Romney carried it in a squeaker — Trump carried in in a little bit less of a squeaker. According to exit polls, black voters failed to turn out for Clinton in the same numbers or to deliver as they had for Obama. Meanwhile, Trump expanded the universe of GOP voters, improving on Romney’s margins in small counties throughout the state.

Despite being viewed by some Republicans as extremely vulnerable, Sen. Richard Burr, R, actually outperformed Trump numerically (by about 30,000 votes) and won re-election to a third term.


These are swing states that Barack Obama carried, and where Hillary Clinton’s loss of Obama voters was greater than the margin by which she lost to Donald Trump.

As it happens, Trump also gained votes in every single one of these. But if Clinton had only been able to persuade and turn out every Obama voter, she would have won anyway.

Iowa: Trump by 148,000 votes (9.6 points)

Trump: 68,000 more votes than Romney
Clinton: 172,000 fewer votes than Obama

Trump’s team feared the weekend before the election that he might lose here. But in the end, it wasn’t even close. Trump found new voter, and Clinton’s turnout fell off a cliff from the last Obama election.

Clinton slightly outperformed Obama’s margins in two counties (suburban Dallas County and college-town Johnson County) but saw the Democratic edge wilt and burn in the other 97. Iowa has a long tradition of left-wing populism, but has now become very friendly to the GOP for two consecutive elections (2014 and 2016).

Michigan: Trump by 12,000 votes (0.3 points)

Trump: 164,000 more votes than Romney
Clinton 297,000 fewer votes than Obama

People laughed at the time, but Donald Trump’s last-minute decision to focus on Michigan did not turn out to be in vain.

All evidence points to a collapse of the Obama coalition in a state to which Clinton paid far too little attention. She slumped in both of the state’s big eastern Democratic cities. In Wayne County (Detroit), she missed President Obama’s vote total by 79,000 and his margin by 93,000 votes. In Genesee County (Flint), she got 26,000 fewer votes than Obama and underperformed his margin by 38,000. Between these gains and improvements on Romney’s margins throughout the state’s many rural counties (including the Upper Peninsula), Trump just barely squeaked out a victory.

Ohio: Trump by 455,000 votes (8.6 points)

Trump: 111,000 more votes than Romney
Clinton: 511,000 fewer votes than Obama

The shock here is not that Trump won (polls had him ahead), but that he won by so much. Clinton could not even keep it close because she lost more than half a million votes that Obama had won.

Mahoning County (Youngstown) was considered a test case for Trump’s ability to appeal to white working class voters. He passed, coming within three points, whereas Mitt Romney had just come within 30 points of President Obama.

One of her biggest losses came in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), where her vote total came up 64,000 votes below Obama. But the fact is, she shed Obama voters all over the state — even in the four counties where she improved on Obama’s margins.

Pennsylvania: Trump by 68,000 (1.2 points)

Trump: 223,000 more votes than Romney
Clinton: 155,000 fewer votes fewer than Obama

Clinton’s loss of Obama votes in the Keystone State more than accounts for her margin of loss, but it’s worth noting that Trump also racked up far more votes than Romney had.

Clinton’s performance in Philadelphia was weaker than Obama’s had been in 2012, but most analysts thought at the beginning of election night that it was borderline-good-enough. This did not prove to be the case.

Trump just barely narrowed Romney’s losing margin in Philly, lost by a slightly larger margin in Pittsburgh, and got clobbered in the Philadelphia suburbs. But in the “Alabama in the middle” part of the state, he racked up staggering totals. The warning signs for Team Clinton came when he carried Erie County (Erie), where Romney had lost by 16 points and Luzerne County (Wilke-Barre), where Romney had lost by 27 (!) points.

It’s worth noting that Sen. Pat Toomey, who also won and by a bit more than Trump, found victory by a completely different path. He kept the race closer in Pittsburgh and much closer in the Philly burbs, carrying Bucks and Chester Counties, which Trump lost. Still, Trump’s heavy support in Wilkes-Barre might have helped him.

Wisconsin: Trump by 27,000 votes (1.0 points)

Trump: 1,500 more votes than Romney
Clinton 238,000 fewer votes than Obama

Wisconsin rejected Donald Trump in its GOP primary, but that didn’t matter on Tuesday (it never does). Instead, Trump’s uniquely non-ideological candidacy helped create an unconventional path to the win.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R, whose victory was also unexpected, got there by a slightly different path. Johnson had an extremely strong performance in the Milwaukee suburbs, where Trump still won but did not do quite as well. But in state’s Democratic wetern counties, Trump shone, winning several normally blue areas that Republicans seldom win. Johnson outran Trump in terms of votes and margin, but Trump’s map is the redder one. 

One has to wonder how much Gov. Scott Walker’s 2011 union reforms contributed to this win. Absent strong and well-funded unions, Democrats have now suffered two important defeats in a row, between Walker’s 2014 re-election and now the triumph by Johnson and Trump.


In a handful of states, Hillary Clinton lost a lot of Obama votes, but still managed to hang on. Trump expanded the GOP electorate (at least a little bit) in all of them.

Maine: Clinton by 21,000 votes (2.7 points)

Trump: 43,000 more votes than Romney

Clinton: 46,000 fewer votes than Obama

Trump improved on Mitt Romney’s margin (of win or loss) in every single county of Maine. It was not enough to carry the state, but it was enough for him to easily win the electoral vote attached to the second congressional district.

Minnesota: Clinton by 44,000 votes (1.5 points)

Trump: 3,000 more votes than Romney

Clinton: 180,000 fewer votes than Obama

A surprisingly close finish in another blue collar workers’ paradise, thanks mostly to Clinton’s loss of so many Obama votes. Trump did not gain much over Romney, but the opportunity here is obvious. Had Trump been able to spend more time here earlier on (something that couldn’t have been reasonably expected), he might well have won it. In the future, if they retain their appeal to the Trump voter, Republicans may well start taking their chances in Minnesota more seriously and bother a bit less with states that are slipping away, like Virginia and New Mexico.

The change in margins throughout the rural parts of Minnesota is quite astonishing. They couldn’t quite overcome Clinton’s increased margins in the Minneapolis area, though.

During the Bush era, Republicans had come quite close in Minnesota, but the flipping of Michigan, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin holds forth hope for the future. Republicans just barely failed to flip two of the state’s House seats, both of which they will likely target in 2018.

New Hampshire: Clinton by 2,500 votes (0.3 points)

Trump: 16,000 more votes than Romney

Clinton: 21,000 fewer votes than Obama

There was a lot of undervoting in the Granite State. Donald Trump improved on Mitt Romney’s margins in every single county of the Granite State — and in all counties in neighboring Vermont except one. It wasn’t enough to win either state, but it was almost enough in New Hampshire. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., outperformed Trump by about 8,000 votes but lost by an even smaller margin.


Arizona: Trump by 85,000 votes (4.1 points)

Trump: 118,000 fewer votes than Romney

Clinton: 2,300 more votes than Obama

A drop-off in the GOP vote here did not prevent Trump from carrying the state, but it did result in Arizona being called very, very late in the night. Clinton made a bit of a play for Arizona, but part of the headwind Trump faced was not related to his own race: A well-financed campaign to take down Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (who lost) might have depressed the GOP vote in Maricopa County somewhat. Clinton performed there at roughly 2012 levels but Trump fell far off Romney’s numbers.

In any event, Trump still carried the county and the state. He did underperform Sen. John McCain, R, who won a convincing 12.5 point victory, mostly by doing much better in Maricopa.

Georgia: Trump by 231,000 votes (4.7 points)

Trump: 10,000 fewer votes than Romney

Clinton: 63,000 more votes than Obama

Trump did slightly outperform Mitt Romney’s margins in a some southern states — Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Louisiana and Arkansas, for example. In some areas, this was due to a drop-off in the black vote for Clinton, in others it had to do with Trump building on Romney’s vote totals.

But in Georgia, South Carolina, Texas and Oklahoma, Trump underperformed Romney — but not to any alarming degree that might cost him these states. He improved on Romney’s margins throughout South Georgia, but often because of Clinton lagging behind Obama. In the Atlanta area, however, Clinton more than made up for the lost votes.

This is another symbol of Trump’s non-traditional path to victory — hang on to the South and seize the rust belt. It’s also a sign of something Georgians have been expecting, but which has not come yet. The state is becoming more competitive for Democrats, but they still aren’t there yet.


These are states where both Clinton’s and Trump’s vote totals seem to have fallen short of their respective parties’ 2012 performances.

New Mexico: Clinton by 65,000 votes (8.3 points)

Trump: 20,000 fewer votes than Romney

Clinton: 35,000 fewer votes than Obama

In the nation’s most Hispanic state (by a long way), Donald Trump performed poorly. But he still didn’t lose as many 2012 Romney votes as Hillary Clinton did, one more sign of the overall weakness of her candidacy.

This was, of course, former Gov. Gary Johnson’s best state, with 9.3 percent, and his high vote total helps explain why Trump and Clinton saw their totals fall.

Virginia: Clinton by 185,000 votes (4.9 points)

Trump: 91,000 votes fewer than Romney

Clinton: 55,000 votes fewer than Obama

In Virginia, turnout was down across the board for the two major parties, even though the overall vote was up — third-party candidates picked up nearly 6 percent of the vote.

Trump actually picked up many votes over Romney in the Commonwealth’s panhandle and rural regions, but lost far more persuadable Republican voters in the D.C. suburbs — Arlington, Fairfax, Alexandria and Loudoun County. Romney ran a much closer race in Virginia, which stands to reason given its makeup. This was not the blue-collar workers’ paradise where Trump tended to thrive.

In the end, it wasn’t terribly close, but Trump did manage to make it closer than the polls indicated. The results in Virginia were one of the night’s early warning signs for Clinton’s team.


Colorado: Clinton by 75,000 votes (2.9 points)

Trump: 20,000 fewer votes than Romney

Clinton: 48,000 fewer votes than Obama

Gary Johnson, whose position on marijuana legalization appeals to much of the state’s young population, had one of his stronger showings with 5 percent of the vote. This may have contributed to a drop-off in the two-party vote, but votes are still being counted and it’s entirely possible that one or both of the major-party candidates will surpass 2012 totals in the end.