Why Donald Trump Won Pennsylvania in 2016
Posted On April 7, 2019
This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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Historic Win Causes Comparison
Donald John Trump’s win in 2016, over Hillary Clinton, is historic. In the race, Trump swept several states which former President Barack Obama had won in 2012. Those include Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
However, Pennsylvania is an interesting case. What had happened in the four years between 2012 and 2016? Why had this blue leaning state flipped to the other side of the aisle? How had this happened. Who was to blame? Well, let’s look at the data.
Comparison: 2012 to 2016
In 2012, Barack Obama won with 51.95% (or 2,990,274 votes) to Mitt Romney’s 46.57% (or 2,680,434 votes). This was a blowout of 5.38% (or exactly 309,840 votes). Obama won over 13 counties, while Romney won 54 counties.
In 2016, Donald Trump won with 48.17% (or 2,970,733 votes) to Hillary Clinton’s 47.46% (or 2,926,441 votes). When one looked at the county breakdown, Clinton won 11 counties to Trump’s 56 counties. Trump won over Clinton by 0.71% (or 44,292 votes).
Political commentators like Ben Shapiro have said that Trump won many of the votes Romney had in 2012. This is true; Trump indeed won an equal number of votes, and even overdid Romney by 290,299 votes. Shapiro also has said that Trump did not over perform Republicans in 2016 when compared to 2012; however, that’s not true with the facts just examined.
Donald Trump over performed Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania, and metaphorically slaughtered Clinton when it came to the county output in the final tally. In Hillary Clinton’s case, she lost to Obama’s total by 63,833 votes.
As shown in a previous article, titled 2018 Midterms Review: Arizona’s Savage Senate Race President Trump flipped traditionally blue counties from 2012 in his race against Clinton. In the case of Pennsylvania, he managed to make Clinton lose two counties which Obama had won in 2012. In addition, these counties flipped back to blue in the following midterm elections of 2018.
Why Did Pennsylvania Flip Red in 2016?
To find out some reasons as to why Trump won the leaning-blue state of PA, I asked Matt Zupon, a native Pennsylvanian. His response was, “Trump spoke to the southwestern and central Pennsylvania-areas.”
This is true, since the majority of red counties in 2016 were in the central and western areas of the state. Sure, Allegheny County went deeply red, with Clinton winning 55.9% of the vote. But that’s where Pittsburgh is located, and Clinton won 74% of that city’s vote. Zupon also addressed this saying, “No Republican will ever win Pittsburgh.”
This is the same with most of America’s major cities; in both Chicago and Detroit, Clinton’s ceiling of support did not drop below 70%. In middle Pennsylvania, it isn’t as densely packed as other areas of the state are. Additionally, the state is like Michigan; it is filled to the brim with working people.
Unlike California, a lot of manufacturing jobs reside in Pennsylvania. These blue-collar workers were massively targeted by the Trump campaign. He went after their support in his rallies, especially those held in Pennsylvania itself.
Clinton’s Shameful Defeat in 2016
Hillary Clinton did not capture the hearts and minds of working Pennsylvanians. Unlike Barack Obama, Clinton did not unite the rural, remote, and suburban voters all packed into Pennsylvania. People in Philadelphia and Hershey did not have the same political mindset as those in Blaire or Jefferson county.
In 2016, Hillary Clinton only won 11 counties to Obama’s 13. She lost two counties which Obama had won. In retrospect, Clinton’s rivals (the third parties) won a combined total of more than 220 thousand votes. This was more than enough to lose Clinton the entire race state-wide, and a lead for her overall.
The Real 2016 Spoiler – Gary Johnson
Clinton only needed around 60,000 votes in order to win a margin of victory over Trump. Gary Johnson, who ran on the Libertarian ticket, won 130,000 votes. One can imagine the race ending differently. Would it have been a severe blow to Trump? Would those votes have gone to Clinton?
Zupon mentioned that these voters probably would have gone for Trump, if Johnson had not run. In my estimation, at least 50-60% of Johnson’s voters were just soft Republican support; these voters were going third party in order to protest Trump, or were more interested in the former Republican’s message.
Imagine if Trump had won these votes over. Imagine the enormous lead Trump would have gained over Clinton in the alternative case of Johnson dropping out and someone else taking his place. The numbers would have certainly become more impressive.
Pennsylvania Won It
In the end, Pennsylvania was the death knell in a series of bad calls for the Clinton camp on election night, November 2016. First came Wisconsin; that state was supposed to go blue. Then came Florida; that state was supposed to lean towards the blue thanks to the large Hispanic vote. Iowa came afterward; it was supposed to stay blue, since Obama had won it back in 2012.
Then, finally came Pennsylvania. In the state where Obama won by more than 5% four years prior, analysts had written a possible Trump victory off as fiction. However, the final narrative was massively different. The final take at the end of the day was substantially changed, and the final outcome was undoubtedly shocking.
Pennsylvania, even now, is seen as a one-time occurrence. In new reports, the mainstream media predicts Pennsylvania will go back to being a blue state in 2020. However, these are the same people who predicted a certain Clinton victory. President Trump could shake these predictions down again, if he does it right.
Americans in Pennsylvania need to be reminded of why they voted for Trump, and what he’s done. Local Republican leaders like native Matt Zupon and the GOP groups in other parts of the state need to stump for Trump. They need to win over softer Republicans, moderates, and Democrats. A victory in Pennsylvania is possible for Trump again in 2020, but it will certainly take a lot of work.
Peter Moon is a writer for NRN. He is a legally blind author who has been writing all of his life. Moon originally began with The University Conservative in October of 2018.