Lang, R. E., Damore, D. F. (2016). The End of the Democratic Blue Wall?. 1-17.
Heading into the 2016 presidential election, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton had multiple paths to secure the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency. In contrast, Republican nominee Donald Trump’s path to the White House necessitated winning a number of large swing states and securing victories in states that had been reliably Democratic. Building from a prior Brookings Mountain West brief (Damore and Lang 2016), we consider how the Trump campaign, despite being vastly outspent, was able to use targeted online messages to activate “white identify politics”—long a staple of Republican politics in the South— in the non-metro areas of the upper Midwest. This messaging, coupled with Hillary Clinton’s unpopularity among white working class and rural voters in the region, interacted with the winner-take-all allocation of Electoral College votes to deliver the presidency for Trump. In the brief’s conclusion, we consider the implications that the 2016 election has for Electoral College politics moving forward.