Hillary Clinton lost millions of rural and exurban voters who came out for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, while Donald Trump outperformed past Republicans in these same areas.
A review of election results published by The Hill finds that Trump did marginally better than Gov. Mitt Romney and quite a bit better than Sen. John McCain, but it was Clinton’s loss of Obama’s voters outside the cities that cost her the election.
That loss came as Clinton and her team tried to run up in the score from her core metropolitan demographics, including ethnic minorities, gays, immigrants, university educated women and professionals. Clinton “was really, really hyper-focused on urban communities,” Steve Schale, a Florida Democratic strategist told The Hill.
The tallying of votes continues and the final count won’t be official for weeks to come, but current totals seem to show that Clinton underperformed Obama’s finals by some five million votes. More importantly, Clinton lost major support in the very states she needed in order to reach the required 270 Electoral College votes.
According to the review, Clinton lost crucial support in rural and collar counties in Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Michigan, and other states that were once assumed to be automatically in her Democratic column. In Pennsylvania, for instance, Clinton outperformed Obama in only one of the state’s 36 counties with populations of 100,000 or less.
Meanwhile, Trump far outperformed Romney in those same counties, which served as a counterbalance to Clinton’s wins in the big urban areas. It was all thanks to a major swing by voters once known as Reagan Democrats.
“The Reagan Democrat coalition moved his way pretty strongly in some of these places, or they just didn’t vote for her,” Mark Stephenson, a Republican data analytics expert, told The Hill. “You can have 10 counties that make up 1 percent of the vote that overwhelm a big county that makes up 8 percent of the vote, and that seems to be what happened in a lot of these swing states.”
Trump even outperformed in Florida’s non-metropolitan areas, counterbalancing Clinton’s win in urban centers. The review of votes found Clinton bested Trump by 853,000 votes in the five most populous counties, which Obama only won by 695,000 votes in 2012.
But Trump slammed Clinton in the rest of the state, ultimately winning by about 220,000 votes.
The study found similar outcomes in several of the other “blue wall” states. In fact, she was so sure she would win them that in some cases she spent little time campaigning there.
The Hill report ultimately finds that Clinton didn’t do badly in the solid Democrat regions of the country. It was everywhere else, purple and red area alike, where she utterly failed.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.