Don’t Blame It on the Turnout. How Trump Really Won: Flipping Obama Voters to Republicans

In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, many simply refused to accept that the real estate mogul would become the 45th president of the United States.

After a myriad of efforts — from calls for state-wide recounts to celebrities urging electors to vote against their state’s wishes — failed, it soon became a question of how Trump won.

While early analysis suggested that a significantly diminished voter turnout was what helped propel Trump to victory, it seems that the problem wasn’t that Democrats didn’t show up at the voting booth — it was that they voted for a Republican president:

According to New York Times’ pollster Nate Cohn, it’s become clear in the months since the election that voter turnout played an almost negligible role in the election, writing:

Instead, it’s clear that large numbers of white, working-class voters shifted from the Democrats to Mr. Trump.

Over all, almost one in four of President Obama’s 2012 white working-class supporters defected from the Democrats in 2016, either supporting Mr. Trump or voting for a third-party candidate.

What’s more, Cohn notes that perhaps Trump’s greatest tool during the election was an ability that seems to come straight out of “The Art of the Deal”:

If turnout played only a modest role in Mr. Trump’s victory, then the big driver of his gains was persuasion: He flipped millions of white working-class Obama supporters to his side.

While it’s been argued by local writers and national pundits alike that Trump’s election win was the result of a race-fueled “whitelash,” the voters themselves offer a much more practical reason:

One such example comes from Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, a region that went to Obama in 2012, but where six in 10 voters chose Trump in 2012.

For 63-year-old Jim Haggerty, who voted for Obama twice, Trump was a man he hoped could “run the country like a successful business” and bring prosperity back to his hometown:

“This area lacks quality jobs We’ve got blue collar, after blue collar, after blue collar.”

The trend seen in counties like Luzerne — and in voters like Haggerty — played out in nearly all regions of the United States, with areas often flipping strongly from Democrat to Republican:

Image Credit: Screenshot/CNBC

In the end, that trend didn’t just propel Trump, but the entire Republican Party.

The 2016 elections left the GOP with control of the Senate, House of Representatives, and the White House — stronger than it’s been than only a few other points in modern American history.

Whether or not Republican lawmakers can leverage that dominance, however — and effect the type of change they’ve been after for almost the past decade — remains to be seen.

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