Election 2016:
How the Electoral College Won

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 25, 2016 — Over the past few decades we have witnessed a great debate in American politics involving the Founding Fathers’ implementation of the Electoral College to govern the presidential election. The just-completed 2016 contest provided many definitive answers to questions surrounding whether the system has outlived its usefulness, or is even needed.

Understanding that the Electoral College was created largely to protect the lesser populated states, rural issues and concerns, and prevent the large population areas from dominating the outcome at all others’ expense, 2016 proved all of those tenets are still salient in the modern political era.

Looking at the presidential election results divided into congressional districts and counties, we can begin to pinpoint the ebbs and flows of the Trump and Clinton vote characterizations and begin to understand how this election truly unfolded. We knew from Election Night that the 2016 electorate was badly polarized in terms of the metropolitan areas versus outer suburb and rural regions, but now we have the tools to see just how deep a divide actually exists. Such appears to be cavernous.

Breaking down the top 10 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) relating to population, we generally see an overwhelming support trend in Hillary Clinton’s favor, which makes the increased turnout and overpowering Trump advantage in the outer suburban and rural areas all the more stunning.

We are clearly seeing that the Clinton campaign actually exceeded its vote goals in the major American cities, and performed even better than former President Obama did against Mitt Romney in places like Philadelphia, Miami, and Atlanta. But, even her increased performances in the major cities were not enough to capture the national electoral vote majority. The Clinton brain trust’s strategic mistake was under-estimating just how strong the outer suburban and rural turnout in the Great Lakes region would be, an error that proved fatal to her presidential aspirations, which is now obvious.

The top 10 MSA’s are, in population order:

New York City/Long Island — 20.2 million pop
Los Angeles/Orange County — 13.3 million
Chicago/IN and WI suburbs — 9.55 million
Dallas/Ft. Worth/Arlington — 7.1 million
Houston/The Woodlands/Sugar Land — 6.66 million
Washington DC/western MD-northern VA — 6.1 million
Philadelphia/Camden, NJ/Wilmington, DE — 6.07 million
Miami/Ft. Lauderdale/West Palm Beach — 6.01 million
Atlanta/Sandy Springs/Roswell — 5.7 million
Boston/Cambridge/central NH/Providence, RI — 4.8 million

In order of Hillary Clinton’s greatest strength, the following shows how the areas performed (arrived percentages are weighted based upon population):

Washington DC/western MD-northern VA — 75.5% Clinton
Los Angeles/Orange County — 66.6%
Atlanta/Sandy Springs/Roswell, GA — 64.6%
Boston/Cambridge/Newton/NH/Providence — 60.9%
Miami/Ft. Lauderdale/West Palm Beach — 60.9%
Philadelphia/Camden, NJ/Wilmington, DE — 58.6%
Chicago/IN and WI suburbs — 56.8%
Dallas/Ft. Worth/Arlington — 47.6%
Houston/The Woodlands/Sugar Land — 46.6%

Therefore, in the nation’s top 10 population centers, Clinton decisively carried eight of them and still lost the election. In only Houston and Dallas/Ft. Worth did she finish behind President Trump, and in each case by less than 2.5 percentage points.

In the next Update, we will look at the Trump performance in his key regions in order to better explain exactly how this election shocked the world.

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