Opinion: Three Takeaways from an Historic Election – by Yosef Stein

ysDonald Trump’s victory on November 8 stunned the pollsters and pundits, upended core tenets of political orthodoxy, and sent international markets into a frenzy. The pre-election polls had virtually all forecast a sound victory for Hillary Clinton not only in the national popular vote, but in the swing states as well. However, Donald Trump managed to win a majority in the Electoral College by blazing a path through the Rust Belt and flipping three states that were part of the so-called “Blue Wall.”

Virtually all political observers, myself included, predicted a Hillary Clinton victory. And while she won the popular vote by more than 2,000,000 votes, she lost the Electoral College, and thus the presidency. Many analysts were left publicly puzzling over Trump’s victory and struggling to make sense of it. Here are three takeaways that help explain Trump’s Election Night success.


While the overhyped Hispanic vote surged in support of Hillary Clinton, it was not very impactful and did not help her in key states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Instead, it was African-American turnout that had a real impact on the race. After surpassing white turnout for the first time ever in 2012, black turnout declined substantially this year as white turnout held steady or increased marginally.

The decrease in Democratic turnout was the undoing of Hillary Clinton. The evidence is in the numbers: Trump garnered only 2,000 more votes in Wisconsin than Mitt Romney did four years ago when he lost the state by 7 points to Barack Obama. Yet Trump won Wisconsin, because Hillary Clinton received roughly 240,000 votes fewer than Obama did last cycle. If just a small percentage of those Democratic voters had turned out for Hillary, she would have defeated Trump in the state.

In Michigan, where the results still have not been certified and Trump leads by fewer than 10,000 votes, Trump outperformed Romney by a hefty margin of about 165,000 votes. That number seems pretty small, though, when you compare it to the 300,000 more votes that Obama got in Michigan in 2012 than Hillary did this year. Again, Democratic voters were too uninspired by Hillary to show up.

In Pennsylvania, where Trump prevailed over Secretary Clinton by about 68,000 votes, the Democratic nominee underperformed Obama’s 2012 vote total by nearly 150,000. If Democratic turnout in 2016 had matched 2012 turnout, Hillary would have won all three of these states and the presidency. The point is that Trump won not because a majority of Americans liked his message, but because many Obama voters, primarily in African-American communities, couldn’t be bothered to show up to vote for Hillary Clinton. Trump’s victory is less about him than it is about Hillary’s unpopularity.


One of the greatest fabrications of the 2016 cycle is the notion, propagated by some Trump supporters in the aftermath of his surprise win, that the Republican nominee carried down-ballot Republicans, particularly GOP Senate candidates, across the finish line. Proponents of this claim believe that without Trump at the top of the ballot, Republican Senate candidates would have been doomed. If anything, however, the exact opposite is true. It is entirely possible that without Republican Senate candidates on the ballot, Trump would have been doomed.

There are a total of eight states that before Election Day were considered battlegrounds both for the presidency and in the battle for control of the Senate – Wisconsin, North Carolina, Florida, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Nevada. In every single one of these eight states, the Republican Senate candidate outperformed Trump. Every single one. In Senate races that Republicans won, they outperformed Trump in their states by an average of 5.3 percentage points. So it is totally implausible that Trump led Senate Republicans to victory. Because in every battleground state, they actually led him.

What is plausible is that Trump would have lost the presidency if not for the Senate races on the ballot. What do I mean? As I mentioned earlier, Hillary lost because of Democratic turnout woes. With a boring, scandal-tarred candidate on top of the ticket and uninspiring candidates running down-ballot, Democratic voters had no motivation to vote. But as we all know, Trump was also uninspiring for a substantial percentage of Republicans. So why did Republicans show up on Election Day? One likely reason is because of the senators running for reelection. In Wisconsin, it was Senator Ron Johnson. In Pennsylvania, it was Senator Pat Toomey. In Florida, it was Senator Marco Rubio. In Arizona, it was Senator John McCain. Some Republican voters only showed up because they wanted to reelect these senators, who are very popular among their home state bases. Once these voters were already at the voting booth, they reluctantly pulled the lever for Trump as well. While Democrats also had candidates running in contested Senate races, they were mostly lesser-known challengers running against incumbents, and they did not have enthusiastic bases of support that came out in droves to vote for them.

Did voter enthusiasm for down-ballot Republicans really swing the election? No one can know for sure. However, in three states where Trump prevailed by razor-thin margins, Florida, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, each of which he won by barely a single percentage point, it is entirely possible that these states’ competitive Senate races were a sizable factor in the higher Republican turnout. If these three states had gone the other way, Hillary Clinton would be the president-elect. So Donald Trump should really thank Republican Senate candidates for motivating their bases to get out and vote – not to mention for turning out voters in spite of the Trump campaign’s abysmal ground game.


Prior to this year, the largest popular vote lead ever for a candidate who lost the Electoral College was Al Gore’s 500,000-vote advantage over George W. Bush in 2000. Hillary Clinton’s popular vote lead over Trump more than quadrupled that margin, as she holds a lead of more than 2,000,000 votes over the Manhattan businessman. Yet she lost the electoral vote. How did that happen? Populous states with large minority populations, such as New York, California and New Jersey, went heavily for Hillary as the Hispanic vote surged. Texas, a state with a large Latino population which Romney won by 16 points last cycle, went to Trump by only 9. Florida, a Republican-leaning swing state with many Hispanic voters, went to Trump by a smaller margin than most true swing states did. In other words, the uptick in Hispanic voters, which had a significant impact on Hillary Clinton’s popular vote total by running up the margins in blue states and tightening the margins in red ones, did not budge a single electoral vote. In the meantime, Rust Belt states with low percentages of Hispanic voters, such as Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania, went to Trump by the slimmest of margins due to the decrease in overall Democratic turnout. This is how Trump won the presidency even as significantly more Americans voted for his opponent.

This does not mean that Trump’s election is illegitimate. It does not mean that Trump is “not my president,” as some of his detractors claim. Should the Electoral College be repealed? Probably. As long as the Electoral College remains in the Constitution, though, that is how presidents will be legitimately elected. However, Trump’s election should not be interpreted as a mandate to carry out the more inflammatory elements of his agenda. His win is not a sign that most Americans agree with him on the issues. Because ultimately, most Americans voted against him.

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  1. You are very intelligent person with a lot of good Insight. However this one article just reads with one line – I don’t like Trump.
    Your first two points contradict each other. Perhaps the people didn’t show up for Hillary because they didn’t like their Senate candidates. Perhaps the Senate candidates lost because people didn’t like Hillary. You don’t consider these points. You are saying one possibility to explain the numbers. However there are many other possibilities. Your first point really isn’t much of a point because as a general rule people do not switch sides it’s always a question of how many voters from the presidential candidates party can they Inspire to get out to vote and with electoral college and all that Trump won. Stop hating on the man. We all know his faults. Now let us accept him as the president without any put-downs or explanations of how his win isn’t as great as people think it is and hope that he leads the country in the right direction.

  2. What about all the illegals and dead people who voted, this is widely reported even in the leftists media. Trump won by a landslide by millions of votes. Why do you openly ignore it,

  3. Very well written.
    But I think a major takeaway, despite losing the popular vote and a low turn-out for democrats, is that Trump did what everyone said was impossible, he WON the general election. And he won BECAUSE of all the reasons that it was “impossible”, his lack of experience, gentility, and traditional party support. Our politicians need to realize and understand this takeaway and react accordingly.

  4. Sk (#1), the first two points in the article do not at contradict each other; in fact they complement each other, as they both point to turnout – and specifically turnout not driven by Mr. Trump – as being the overwhelmingly deciding factor in his victory. The numbers don’t lie. The fact that he could win while (a) losing the popular vote by a huge 2 million votes and (b) underperforming his own Senate candidates, coupled with the recognition that the backdrop to all of this is Mrs. Clinton’s marked underperformance with her own party, is simply incredible. (The point about perhaps the Democrat Senate candidates causing lower Democratic turnout is ill-considered; as the article points out, they were mostly lesser-known challengers who would not be expected to personally drive turnout either way. Additionally, when the presidential candidate is well-liked by party members, lackluster down-ballot candidates are not going to drive down turnout.) The hasgocha here is certainly quite evident, as Moshe (#4) points out (although, from the point of view of election analysis, rather irrelevantly so).

    The author does not attack or bad-mouth Mr. Trump in any way. Pointing out how we can understand his election does not take away from his legitimacy or suggest that he should not be respected and supported as the president. In fact, the writer concludes by stating as such.

  5. Maybe Trump realizes you are right in your analysis and by making the case that “Trump’s election should not be interpreted as a mandate to carry out the more inflammatory elements of his agenda. ” He has already walked back almost all of the most controversial rhetoric of his campaign – e.g. “lock her up” and the wall (along the whole border).

  6. It’s a short erev Shabbos, so this will be quick.

    1) Turnout was low for Clinton because of Trump, past Republican candidates folded like a cheap table, Trump attacked back and damaged Clinton.

    2) The Republicans Senators most vocal in their opposition to Trump lost, even though they were ahead in the polls prior to attacking Trump. This is particularly True of Heck in Nevada and Ayotte in NH.

    3) A number of GOP senators that won, even though they were not expected to, were in dostricts that supported Trump, most notably in Indiana and Wisconsin.

    4) Trump faced a concerted attack by media and globalist members of his own party like know candidate in recent history, apparently the Swamp did not want to be Drained. notice how many of the allegations against him disappeared, or were dropped after the election.

    5) Remove CA from the election and Trump won the popular vote by 2 million, remove NY and that doubles. The electoral college was put in place so a few large states shouldn’t dictate the election results.

    My guess is that if you were asked about it prior to the election, being the strong constitutionalist that you are, you would have viewed the idea of removing the electoral college as treasonous.

    Did you have the same issue when Bush beat Gore, your hatred fro Trump is blinding you.

    6) Voter turnout in years of presidential election is far greater then mid-term, the idea that down ballot Republicans carried Trump is ridiculous.

    E.C. This article reeks of being an explanation of “I was right even though I was wrong”. People make mistakes, you learn from it and move on, you don’t double down on a losing hand.

  7. 1) Anything Trump said during the campaign was routinely ridiculed by Democrats and the press. His cartoonish attacks on Clinton did not drive the narrative of her corruption at all; the reasonable case against her was made by others (including her own deception and side-stepping).

    2) These Senate candidates out-performed Trump in their states. It is possible that had they not disavowed support for him they would have picked up enough extra votes from his supporters to put them over the top, but perhaps they would have lost just as many from those disgusted by him and his actions. Anyway, they did not oppose him politically but rather both stood on principle against his disgusting statements and behavior – something that, sadly, perhaps some frum people could learn from – knowingly imperiling their careers.

    3) Again, except I believe for Missouri (where the Democrat run a much better campaign than the Republican), all of the Republican Senate candidates out-performed Trump in their states. In Indiana and Wisconsin particularly, the Republicans soundly defeated popular and well-known Democrats, lending a great deal of credence to the idea that they carried Trump and certainly not the opposite.

    4) By late September, vocal opposition from prominent members of the Republican establishment had effectively ceased. Even those like the Bushes who still held out from jumping on board did not attack Trump, but rather indicated that they were sitting out the campaign. As for attacks from the mainstream media, welcome to America! All Republican candidates deal with unfair media coverage; the difference is that it does, to some extent, wear down support for a normal candidate, whereas Trump fed off it, as it fit his me-against-the-establishment narrative.

    5) I can’t speak for the writer of the article, but the Electoral College is an archaic anti-democratic institution which does not even fulfill the mandate of the framers of the Constitution – i.e. dispassionate debate by political elite to pick a president without much regard for popular opinion.

    6) Of course presidential elections out-draw midterms – it has a presidential race on top of the congressional races. The important facts are that turnout was significantly depressed from 2012 – especially among Democratic constituencies – and that turnout in states with important Senate races had higher relative turnout than other states. Looking at the numbers in those races shows that it is far from “ridiculous” that Senate candidates – especially those with active ground games to actually turn out voters – helped Trump.

    E.C. Trump lost the popular vote big-time. At least anecdotally – and admittedly these anecdotes might be somewhat suspect based on their sources – many who did vote for him only did so as a protest vote against Clinton and the establishment and not because they believe in his stated program at all.

  8. Jewish people should not place their trust in ANY politicians, world leaders (I might take exception to Winston S. Churchill—NOT his grandson a liberal MP currently) or anyone that is NOT Torah observant !!!!!

    You must study Torah, Talmud, and the numerous commentaries by the sages on these sefers constantly !!

    All goy and all nonobservant Jews you can be cordial to but be wary of !!

    I am a goy I know goy—I can cite numerous secular Jews who can and do lead you from Torah observance.

    Nothing else counts–BE TORAH OBSERVANT AS MUCH AS YOU CAN !!!

    Shalom, a low character goy,

    Gerry Mullen

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