THOSE NARROW MARGINS: Trump's victory margin continues to grow!


Part 2—Millions of "wasted votes:"
Donald J. Trump's victory margin has only continued to grow.

As of Saturday morning, with votes still being counted, Trump was ahead in the popular vote by minus 1.26 million. At least, that's what it said at the Washington Post; see Part 1 in this award-winning series.

The Post has maintained a running account of "Live Results" from the November 8 election. Yesterday morning, on Meet the Press, Chuck Todd updated those results from the day before:
TODD (11/20/16): And we are back. It's data download time.


Our friend Dave Wasserman over at the Cook Political Report has been keeping track of the national popular vote as it continues to be counted, particularly out west.

Hillary Clinton leads by more than 1.6 million votes nationally. And believe it or not, that's triple of what Al Gore led George W. Bush by in 2000.
According to Todd, Trump's victory margin had grown. As of yesterday morning, it stood at more than minus 1.6 million votes!

(Without stating a source or providing a link, Josh Marshall reported last night that Trump's mandate now stands at a negative "1.677 million votes or a 1.3 percentage point margin." As far as we know, both those numbers are still expected to grow.)

That's right! Trump is now ahead in the popular vote by more than minus 1.6 million votes! Unless you go back to the Washington Post, which hasn't bothered updating its numbers since last Saturday morning, when its count was already running behind the actual state of the tally.

At some point, we'll probably know how the popular vote turned out. Already, though, we're calling that overall situation problematic.

For the second time in the past five elections, the Democratic nominee is going to win the popular vote without winning the White House. That strikes us as a highly significant state of affairs.

But as the slacker Post helps show, this problematic state of affairs is being almost wholly ignored by the "mainstream press." Many people don't know that Candidate Clinton won the popular vote. On TV, they hear about the other candidate's "mandate."

(Our "mainstream press corps" is suddenly shrieking about the rise of "fake news." It's a bit like Santa Claus suddenly coming out against free toys. But as the children shriek and wail, they ignore the problematics involved in this year's popular vote.)

Let's repeat what we've said. In two of the last five elections, the Democratic nominee has won the most popular votes, but has failed to reach the White House.

Only a deeply clueless group would let this phenomenon pass without a full examination and plenty of public comment. Needless to say, we liberals are that group.

Having stated this obvious point, let's try to get clear on the reason for this latest revoltin' development. Let's talk about the "sorting" of America. Also, let's talk about "wasted votes."

Why didn't Candidate Clinton end up winning the White House? She's going to wed up winning the popular vote by a fairly significant amount. So why is Trump on his way to the White House, claiming a "mandate" as he does? Whatever happened to Candidate Clinton? What happened to all those votes?

The answer takes us to the concept of "wasted votes." As most journalists knew by this year, our presidential election is really, on the whole, a set of statewide elections. This leads to an eventual vote in the so-called electoral college, an unlicensed branch of Trump University.

Uh-oh! If you win a state by just one vote, you get all its electoral votes! In terms of who gets to go to the White House, any additional votes in a state can be seen as "wasted."

Under the rules of the electoral college, winning a state by a large amount doesn't help you win the White House. This isn't like the AP college football poll, where victory margin is part of the mix. You either win a state or you don't. Winning big doesn't help.

That said, who received the most "wasted votes" this year? Candidate Clinton did! Below, you see the five biggest statewide victory margins from this year's presidential race. The largest clumps of wasted votes were found in a set of blue states:
Largest statewide victory margins, 2016:
Clinton won by 3.39 million votes (and counting)
New York: Clinton won by 1.5 million votes
Massachusetts: Clinton won by 880,000 votes
Illinois: Clinton won by 860,000 votes
Texas: Trump won by 814,000 votes
We're using the numbers at the Post site. Since California is still counting, we'll assume that Clinton's victory margin is already larger than 3.39 million in that molasses-like state.

When you look at those vote totals, you're looking at several things. You're looking at an accurate record of the way Americans voted in five states. You're also looking at the results of a type of "sorting"—and you're looking at a lot of "wasted votes."

What do we mean by "sorting?" In his widely-discussed 2008 book, The Big Sort, Bill Bishop discussed the way Americans increasingly choose to live near, and associate with, people who share their political views and their cultural outlooks.

Liberals move to liberalish areas; conservatives don't. This tendency may help explain the presence of all those wasted votes in California, where Clinton won by more than three million votes instead of the needed one.

However one explains the process, California is becoming ground zero for wasted votes in presidential elections. Here's how victory margins have changed in the Golden State over the past several years:
Victory margins in California:
Clinton won by 1.49 million votes
1996: Clinton won by 1.29 million votes
2000: Gore won by 1.29 million votes
2004: Kerry won by 1.24 million votes
2008: Obama won by 3.26 million votes
2012: Obama won by 3.01 million votes
2016: Clinton won by 3.39 million votes (and counting)
Them's a lot of wasted votes! There's wasted votes in them thar hills!

Obama survived his wasted votes; this year, Clinton didn't. That's because of a second phenomenon—those "narrow margins."

While Clinton was rolling up tons of votes in California and New York, Trump was squeaking through in some other states by rather narrow margins. As a result, more people voted for one hopeful overall, but the other guy won.

As some journalists knew all along, these are the rules by which our elections have always been run. Trump has said he would have campaigned differently under different rules, and that he still would have won.

That's always possible, of course; after all, everything is! And that's why, under our system, the wasted votes are the smaller story. The larger story here involves those narrow margins.

Tomorrow, we'll look at the relatively narrow margins by which Trump won some decisive states. The man who has promised to build The Wall tore down a famous "blue wall" by a fairly small number of votes.

Trump won those decisive states by relatively narrow margins. Tomorrow, we'll ask you to ponder a horrible question:

Narrow margins turned this election. What sorts of things might we liberals have done to throw away a set of decisive states?

Tomorrow: A look at some narrow margins

Could Trump have won the popular vote: Could Trump have won the popular vote? If our elections were run that way, could Donald J. Trump have won?

It's always possible that Trump could have won under those rules. Of course, it's also possible that he would have lost the popular vote by an even larger margin.

Under those different rules, it's possible Trump could have won! Unless you're reading the kind of site which exists to serve you feel-good partisan pablum.

At sites like that, purveyors seem to know what you want. We don't think it helps.


  1. Donald Trump owes his victory in the Electoral College to three states he won by the smallest number of votes: Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. So it's fair to say that the 2016 presidential election was decided by about 100,000 votes out of than 120 million ballots cast. According to the latest tallies, Trump won Pennsylvania by 1.1 percentage points (68,236 votes), Wisconsin by 0.9 points (27,257 votes), Michigan by 0.2 points (11,837 votes). If Clinton had won all three states, she would have won the Electoral College 278 to 260. She fell short in all three, of course, and that's why we are now getting accustomed to the reality of President-elect Donald J. Trump.

    We have been close to it for a long time, but finally tragedy comes to America.

    Why Clinton didn't protect this "firewall' instead of constantly going to Florida and N. Carolina is a mystery to me.

    She should have almost lived there.

    1. Why don't you just call her a stupid bitch? You know you want to.

    2. No, your crude mind belongs to Trump.

  2. They thought their overconfident posture and reports about surge in hispanic voters would suppress the Trump turnout. It probably did but not enough to deter most of our spirited friends on the not-left, and it probably also suppressed their own turnout.

    Nobody saw it coming except Trump's team, and maybe people with a long enough memory to recall the Bernie upsets and understand the rigging messaging resonated with those voters because it was true and Wikileaks exposed the contempt for those voters in the Clinton camp.

    1. I can see them now. Sitting around the table discussing how to appear more overconfident.

    2. There is no evidence it occurred to the Clinton campaign that a segment of late deciding voters will break for the candidate they believe will win. There is also no evidence the Clinton campaign would stoop to the level of exploiting this dynamic by suppressing enthusiasm if they thought it would help. When Obama said "At least I will go down as a president" there was nothing strategic about it, only stupidity.

  3. Hey, whaddya know, every state you listed where Clinton won big are states with no form of voter ID! What a tremendous coincidence. I'm sure there were no shenanigans in California, where millions of illegal aliens reside, and which has taken weeks to do basic counting, and still somehow has not finished.

    If the number of invalid votes was limited to 2M, I'd be shocked. And if less than 90% of that lot voted Clinton, I'd eat my hat.

    1. Better trolling please.

    2. This guy thinks anyone who voted for Hillary is an invalid vote.

      What do you suppose it means that more illegal aliens are moving to other states besides California, as Pew reports (250% increase)? I think it is because of the high cost of living in CA, not to find an area with more conservative political views.

  4. "Liberals move to liberalish areas; conservatives don't."

    By this, I assume Somerby means that conservatives don't move to liberalish areas, not that conservatives don't move to conservative areas.

    I personally know two people who moved this past year to get out of liberalish California and go to somewhere more compatible with their conservative political views. One went to Wyoming, the other to Texas.

    I don't know anyone who moved to California because it was liberalish. They moved here for the weather or to take a high-tech or entertainment industry job. It costs a lot to live here so the people who come are better educated (because it is required by high tech jobs). I think the demographics are affecting the vote here, not vice versa.

    Even our immigrants tend to be better educated, partly because we don't discriminate against them in our public schools.

    I found both Boston and New York to be more liberal than Los Angeles. That wouldn't cause me to move there. The liberalish people in Utah gravitate to Salt Lake City, which went blue for Hillary, but that didn't give her the state.