In recent weeks former US presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, has been promoting her new book What Happened? In it, Clinton gives her own verdict on her defeat to Donald Trump in 2016 – something which Clinton has since admitted she did not expect.
The 2016 presidential election was one of the closest elections in American political history. Clinton won 2,864,974 more votes than Trump, but the latter’s victory in the Electoral College secured him the presidency.
The real question, however, is not what happened, but why? The very title of Clinton’s book belies her failure to understand this.
Instead, a Democratic Super-PAC has investigated why Trump secured voters who had previously voted for Barack Obama, by conducting focus groups in two states: Michigan and Wisconsin. It is revealing that half of the respondents stated that their incomes had fallen behind the cost of living, and 30% of them argued that they voted against Clinton rather than for Trump.
In other words, Hillary Clinton lost in 2016, because, in the key Midwestern states, she failed to convince voters that their economic future would be more secure with her. This is ironic given that it was an advisor to Bill Clinton who coined the phrase: “It’s the economy, stupid”. It is a shame that Mrs Clinton did not listen to this advice.
What can clearly be inferred from the data – and corroborated by the result – is that Mrs Clinton, and to a degree Barack Obama, lost the election more than Mr Trump won it. A graphical analysis by AdAge demonstrates that the Trump campaign concentrated more of its television and radio advertising in the Midwestern states than Clinton’s. Further analysis reveals that, during the final ten weeks of the campaign, Trump held 35 more campaign stops than Clinton, and held more visits than his opponent in the Midwest.
In short, both Clinton’s message and strategy failed to convince the key voters whom her predecessor had won, and this failed to secure her the Electoral College. Trump was not elected on the tide of white nationalism, but rather on the narrow victory he achieved in key Midwestern states; and their primary concern was economic.
Ultimately, it will be for historians with the benefit of hindsight and more information to determine what happened and why. In asking What Happened? Clinton was, as she admits, trying to ‘set the record straight’. The truth, however, is that the record, along with the devil, is in the detail.