This race was crazy close. Remember that.
But ignore that for now — elections, after all, are contested in the Electoral College. (Hence the name of this website.) So here’s another question. What would have happened if just 1 out of every 100 voters shifted from Trump to Clinton? That would have produced a net shift of 2 percentage points in Clinton’s direction. And instead of the map you see above, we’d have wound up with this result in the Electoral College instead:
Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida flip back to Clinton, giving her a total of 307 electoral votes. And she’d have won the popular vote by 3 to 4 percentage points, right where the final national polls had the race and in line with Obama’s margin of victory in 2012. If this had happened, the interpretation of the outcome would have been very different — something like this, I’d imagine:
- Republicans simply can’t appeal to enough voters to have a credible chance at the Electoral College. While states like Ohio and Iowa might be slipping away from Democrats, they’ll be more than made up for by the shift of Arizona, North Carolina and Florida into the blue column as demographic changes take hold. Democrats are the coalition of the ascendant.
- The United States was more than ready for the first woman president. And they elected her immediately after the first African-American president. With further victories for liberals over the past several years on issues ranging from gay rights to the minimum wage, the arc of progress is unmistakable.
- American political institutions are fairly robust. When a candidate like Trump undermines political norms and violates standards of decency, he’s punished by the voters.
In light of Trump’s narrow victory, these arguments sound extremely unconvincing. But they’re exactly what we would have been hearing if just 1 out of 100 voters had switched from Trump to Clinton. So consider that there might be at least partial truth in some of these points.