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Original article URL: http://bridgemi.com/2016/11/rural-white-michigan-thumbs-nose-at-clinton-backs-trump/
9 November 2016
We should have known it was going to be close.
With all the attention both Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave Michigan in the days and hours before the election, it was clear — at least to the candidates — that the state was in play.
The story of the 2016 presidential race, and Trump’s narrow victory in Michigan, can be found in the sharp change of fortune for the Democratic nominee outside major metro areas. In these smaller corners of the state, enthusiasm for Trump was dramatically underappreciated by pollsters and pundits alike. These voters cast huge numbers for Trump’s populist appeal, decisively flipping 12 pro-Obama counties and rolling up far larger margins for Trump in smaller counties across the state. Clinton was unable to sufficiently compensate in Democratic urban strongholds like Detroit, Flint, Saginaw and Muskegon.
As Wednesday dawns, here are three takeaways from the state’s 2016 presidential vote:
President Barack Obama is as popular as he’s ever been, leading Clinton to essentially campaign for a third Obama term. But Obama did not face nearly the level of anger over lost manufacturing jobs and anti-free-trade sentiment that has buffeted Clinton in 2016. Early election data show Clinton woefully underperformed, getting 425,000 fewer votes than Obama earned in 2012. That’s a huge shift that pre-election polls did not reflect — most had Clinton winning the state. Most of those lost votes went to Trump and, to a lesser extent, third-party candidate Gary Johnson, who netted more than 166,000 votes in the state, nearly 4 percent of the total vote.
Overall turnout was down by over 215,000 votes but it appears those who decided to stay home were more likely Democrats than Republicans: While GOP standard bearer Mitt Romney lost the state 54-45 in 2012, Trump remains slightly ahead of Clinton early Wednesday.
To appreciate the GOP resurgence in the presidential race, head to midsize or smaller counties across the state, from the Upper Peninsula to the Ohio border, from Great Lakes Huron to Michigan, where Trump outperformed past Republicans by breathtaking margins.
Consider: In Michigan’s 62 least populous counties, Trump bested Clinton by more than 267,000 votes — well more than double the margin that President George W. Bush won those counties in 2004, when Republicans came the closest to beating a Democrat since 1998. Bush still lost by more than 165,000 that year.
Tuesday’s vote included party flips across much of the state.
Look first at Monroe County, a mid-size county of about 150,000 and home to DTE’s largest coal electric generator, several large manufacturers and thousands of acres of farmland. Nearly 92 percent of the population is white. It had voted for the Republican presidential nominee in 2000 and 2004, but switched to Obama in 2008 and 2012.
In these four previous elections, the victor in Monroe won by no more than 3,300 votes (Obama in 2008). On Tuesday, Trump took 16,400 more votes than Clinton.
A similar tale emerges in Calhoun County, home to Battle Creek in south central Michigan, where President Obama won by 6,000 votes in 2008. Trump carried the county by 7,300 votes on Tuesday, a complete reversal. Along the Lake Huron shoreline, he picked up tens of thousands of more votes.
In Bay County, tucked along Saginaw Bay, voters backed the Democratic nominee in each of the last four elections, giving Al Gore, John Kerry and Obama a victory of, on average, 5,800 votes. Trump won the county, among the hardest hit by the steep decline in manufacturing, by nearly 7,000 votes.
In one of the reddest counties in Michigan, Ottawa, Trump actually underperformed Romney, getting nearly 2,000 fewer votes. But that was overcompensated by gains in outlying areas in West Michigan, like Newaygo County, where Trump far outdistanced Romney’s numbers.
Another surprise hinted at for weeks: Underwhelming support for Clinton in larger cities and metro regions. Minority voters backed her by big margins, but turnout appeared to be down.
Three huge counties with the largest minority populations, Wayne, Saginaw and Genesee, suffered the biggest drop in turnout, down between 4 and 6 percent. Clinton got 119,000 fewer votes in those counties than Obama did in 2012; Trump got 26,000 more votes than Romney in those counties.
Clinton underperformed in Genesee County — home to Flint, with its unprecedented lead water crisis, a scandal that has seen most of the blame falling on state Republicans. Her vote total was less than any of the last four Democratic nominees.
Clinton’s victory margins in Wayne and Oakland counties just could not overcome the heartland support for Trump.
In Oakland County north of Detroit, among the wealthiest and most educated in the country, Clinton actually did slightly better than Obama in 2012, winning by nearly 54,000 votes, 1,360 votes better than the President.
But just to the east, in Macomb County, home to numerous auto plants, Trump’s anti-trade, pro-worker rhetoric resonated and he won by more than 48,000 votes, a staggering 64,000 vote swing from 2012 when blue-collar Macomb backed President Obama.
Even in some places where Clinton won, she lost ground from Obama’s races. In Muskegon County along Lake Michigan, Clinton won but by fewer than 800 votes. In the previous four elections, Muskegon County typically gave the Democrat a 13,800 lead.