Facts Matter: Four Responses to 'Hillary Won the Popular Vote'

Guy Benson
|
Posted: Nov 30, 2016 10:30 AM
Facts Matter: Four Responses to 'Hillary Won the Popular Vote'

I've offered variations of these arguments on Twitter, and right here on the Tipsheet, ever since the day after the election -- but in light of many liberas' obsessive, breathless, ongoing updates to the popular vote tally on social media, it seems as though a one-stop shop may prove handy for awhile longer.  If Trump opponents insist on clinging to this irrelevant piece of electoral trivia, Trump supporters (or anyone weary of the 'but the popular vote' caterwauling) should be equipped with some facts:

(1) Donald Trump won the only popular votes that actually count under our constitutional system. The goal of any presidential ticket is to win a majority of the electoral college, a fact that everybody knew and agreed upon entering the campaign. Achieving this goal requires winning the popular vote in enough statewide elections (plus DC) to obtain 270 electoral votes. Trump did so in 30 states -- or, framed another way, 60 percent of all states. He also carried a Congressional District in Maine, one of only two states that apportions electoral votes in that manner (the other being Nebraska, which Trump swept). Trump won everywhere from conservative states in the Mountain West to the blue collar rust belt -- including several states that no GOP nominee had won in decades -- to diverse swing and non-swing states like Florida and Texas. He not only won a majority of the electoral college, he did so with dozens of electoral votes to spare, accumulating 306 in total. Both the Trump and Clinton campaigns set out to capture at least 270 electoral votes, which requires a specific plan with special emphasis on a swath of eclectic battleground states. For better or worse, the other states were largely ignored because that's what the strategy calls for. If the national popular vote had been a relevant metric in determining the presidency, Trump and Clinton would have designed their plans of attack totally differently. They didn't because it isn't. Mrs. Clinton's relatively narrow popular vote plurality (well short of a majority, mind you) therefore signifies nothing of real value. The popular vote obsessives are reduced to incanting a tautology: If things were different, the result would be different. What an inane, empty insight.  And it's not even accurate.  If things were different, the result might have been different.  We have no way of knowing. 

(2) Part of the carefully-calibrated genius behind our framework is that it requires a successful presidential ticket to appeal to non-monolithic and non-regional blocs of voters residing all across the country. Democrats can't simply run up the score in giant liberal states like California, New York and Illinois and call it a day. Similarly, Republicans can't dominate Texas and the South and pull off a win. The equation is more complex -- with an array of constituencies, featuring varied opinions and dispositions, needing to be wooed. This is by design.  To that end, Donald Trump carried approximately 82 percent of all US counties, with Hillary Clinton's success being mostly limited to large urban, left-leaning populations. Trump won a supermajority of states and an overwhelming majority of counties, from coast to coast. One could argue that this renders him more representative of the country as a whole, compared to his rival. As for Democrats who might object that the percentage of counties won doesn't matter, they are absolutely correct. See item #1.

(3) Hillary Clinton may have secured a national popular vote plurality, but given the Left's (and, supposedly, her own) fixation on ridding our politics of the corrosive influence of money, it should be noted that Trump won the electoral college while getting out-raised and out-spent by nearly a whopping two-to-one margin. Barack Obama massively outspent his rivals in both 2008 and 2012, but Hillary blew Obama out of the water on the benchmark of outspending her opponent, both in terms of percent and raw dollars.  The party and ideology that proclaims opposition to money in politics dominated those metrics this year, top to bottom.  Trump took his far, far smaller war chest and applied it much more surgically. His vote-getting "return on investment" was therefore vastly better than hers. She hypocritically dominated the money game and still got smoked where it counts, totally failing to "buy the election," as her fellow partisans would frame it if the roles were reversed. But maybe she was able to purchase herself a meaningless popular vote plurality. This is the electoral equivalent of forking over piles of cash to ingest a prodigious number of empty calories. As for Democrats who might object that campaign spending isn't necessarily a decisive factor in the winning and losing of elections, they are absolutely correct. Once again, see item #1, and also the Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush campaigns.

(4) This sort of misleading, specious blather continues to persist, unfortunately:

Sigh. Only one-third of Senate seats were up for election in 2016, as Senators serve six-year terms. By happenstance, this cycle featured a barely-contested Senate race in heavily Democratic New York, and a race in California that featured no Republican nominee at all. Vote-rich Texas did not have a Senate contest this year. So tabulating the raw "popular vote" is even less useful in the Senate context than in the presidential race, which is at least truly national. What's more telling is that the GOP won almost all of the swing state Senate elections, including a robust showing in the diverse swing state of Florida, and a blowout in crucial Ohio. Those were the bellwethers. In making the unserious "minority rule" point above, this individual oddly ignored the national aggregated popular vote of House races -- which, like on the presidential level, is actually nationwide in nature. Perhaps that data point was excised from the argument because Republicans handily won that count by more than 2.7 million votes, coming much closer to an outright national majority than Mrs. Clinton did. Relatedly, Republicans also now control 34 governorships, accounting for 68 percent of the national total (with similar dominance in state legislatures). Lefties crying about "minority rule" are either deliberately ignoring evidence or deluding themselves. That may be a helpful coping mechanism for some, but it in no way validates their weak and irrelevant arguments.