Who lost Aroostook County, Maine?


Shouldn't we try to find out? Last week, we noted a somewhat discouraging electoral fact. 

Uvalde County, Texas is roughly three-quarters Hispanic. But in the 2020 election, Candidate Trump beat Candidate Biden there by just over twenty points.

Given certain demographic stereotypes, Uvalde seems like a county a Democrat should be able to win. But it hasn't been working out that way. Trump beat Clinton by ten points there, then beat Biden by twenty.

Today, we visit a vastly different county. We travel to far north Aroostook County, the largest county in Maine.

Maine is just the 39th largest state by area, but Aroostook is a big county. In this recent report, the Washington Post's Molly Roberts described its recent political history:

ROBERTS (6/2/22): Aroostook nestles up against Canada. It’s rural, remote and vast—larger than several states. It’s conservative and becoming more so: It voted blue in six presidential races from 1992 to 2012, and then red in 2016 and 2020. It’s also not what it used to be; gone is the era of a booming lumber industry that propped up mills, factories and all the opportunity that came with them. “There was a lot of activity in that area,” says longtime Collins chief of staff and all-around Svengali Steve Abbott. “And now there’s not.”

Somewhat oddly, Roberts says Aroostook is "conservative and becoming more so." She then notes that Democrats won the county in every presidential race from 1992 through 2012. 

It wouldn't seem that the rural county was especially "conservative" then.

Obama won the county both times, by 13.6 and 7.5 points. After that, the deluge! Trump beat Clinton by 17 points, then beat Biden by 20. 

Who (or what) lost Aroostook County? We'll note that the county's most recent demographic profile looks like this:

Aroostook County, Maine
Population: roughly 67,000
White: 93.7%
Black: 1.2%
Hispanic: 1.4% 
Native American: 1.9%

The county is very heavily "white." Obama won there both times. The county then swung hard to Trump. 

Who (or what) lost Aroostook County? Roberts seems to float a Svengali's suggestion. Shouldn't we try to find out?


  1. "Obama won there both times. The county then swung hard to Trump."

    Ah, yes, dear Bob. Another place where "hope-change" didn't materialize.

    As they say: can fool all of the people some of time, some of the people all the time, but not all the people all the time...

  2. "Uvalde County, Texas is roughly three-quarters Hispanic. But in the 2020 election, Candidate Trump beat Candidate Biden there by just over twenty points."

    Somerby interprets this as meaning that Hispanic people must have voted for Trump instead of for a Democratic candidate, but the reality may be instead that Hispanic people didn't vote to the same extent was white people in the county. Hispanics are among the least likely to vote, partly because of language barriers but also because of lack of outreach and lack of a strong voting tradition. There are also deliberate vote suppression efforts aimed at their demographic group and even an apathy about voting when Hispanic candidates are not on the ballot. The mayor of Uvalde is white, not Hispanic.

    When Hispanic voters do not vote, despite being over 80% of the population, the remainder who do vote may have difficulty outweighing a white population that does vote. In that case, the sympathies of the Hispanic population do not have to be with Trump, they simply need to not vote at all.

    This is how Trump wound up winning in blue states such as Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, giving him the electoral college win. It wasn't that people were FOR Trump, they turned enough of them against Hillary (or confused voters about when and where to vote) so that they suppressed the Hillary vote just enough to win in a few key districts capable of being swung to Trump. This effort is what was aided by Russian interference.

    In Uvalde, Hispanics may not vote because they do not feel empowered to participate in the process, and because white people dominate the power structure of the city with wealth and position, so they see little point in voting. This is why GOTV efforts and community activism (of the type Stacey Adams did in Georgia) is necessary in places like Texas. And it is also why political analysts keep saying that Hispanics will overwhelm Republicans in red states. They are already living there -- getting them out to vote can happen with effort.

    1. You make a good point. There are three kinds of Hispanics in regard to eligibility to vote:
      1) Undocumented immigrants
      2) Legal green card holders
      3) US Citizens.
      Only group number three is eligible to vote. The census counts undocumented immigrants, so we cannot leave them out of the equation

    2. In general, Latinos participate in common civic activities, such as voting, at much lower rates than nearby non-Latino whites or blacks. Approximately 57.9 percent of U.S. citizen adult Latinos were registered to vote at the time of the 2004 election, and 47.2 percent turned out to vote.

    3. Apparently, 70.9 percent of white voters cast ballots.

      So using these numbers, we can do the math and determine what % of the latinos voted for Trump.

      But I gotta run :)

  3. "Who (or what) lost Aroostook County? Roberts seems to float a Svengali's suggestion. Shouldn't we try to find out?"

    Does Somerby really think that those who run campaigns for a living do not know why candidates win and lose in different areas of the country. You can find this discussed extensively at 538 (Nate Silver's blog). There is usually an analysis in the local papers following each election. But this is no big mystery.

    Somerby description contains the answer to his own question. Local forestry and other industry left the area, people lost jobs and went where they could find them. As a result, the county went from being blue collar and working class (Democratic) to being conservative (mostly small business owners, wealthy individuals and elderly retired or those who were too poor to move were left). Those remaining may have been embittered about the changes (as in WV where Trump told miners that coal would come back). That area resembles the Northern counties of California, which are forested and rural and have no industry to speak of. Those are the areas that are secessionist, wanting to join a new Greater Idaho conservative haven. They are the only places in all of California that voted for the Republican candidate for governor, against Gavin Newsom who won the rest of the state.

    I think it is misleading to consider Obama a typical Democratic candidate when his candidacy was historic and he had an energized group of young, new-to-politics staffers to help with voter registration and GOTV efforts, In some places, voting switched from Obama to Trump not because of changes in who lived there, but simply because those first-time Obama voters stayed home after his terms were up. Obama worked hard to switch young and black voters from Hillary to himself during the primaries and many didn't go back to Hillary afterward, staying home instead. Bernie similarly wooed votes from Hillary that didn't return to her when she became the nominee. Hillary too was a historic candidacy, but that didn't appeal to the same group as Obama's did (e.g., women supported Hillary, blacks and young idealistic voters supported Obama). Further, people who were less enthusiastic about Hillary stayed home because they thought it was inevitable she would win without their votes, because who would vote for a buffoon like Trump.

    For some odd reason, Somerby seems to be pretending that he doesn't know any of this. He is a politics junkie like many of us here, so why wouldn't he be aware of what happened? If he is pretending, why? So that he can lead his readers to accept Republican talking points -- such as that Hispanics are switching to the Republicans? Or is he just trying to portray Democrats as incompetent? Does Somerby really not know what upstate Maine is like these days?

  4. The article about Susan Collins is behind a paywall, but if her district has become more conservative, it would explain why she is less willing to side with Democrats on any issues lately. She needs to get re-elected by the district she has, not the one she had when she was first elected years ago.

    1. She doesn't have a "district", doofus, she is a US Senator from Maine.

    2. Right, sorry for the error. But it doesn't change the suggestion that if her base becomes more conservative she still needs to appeal to it in order to be reelected.


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  5. How the Dem’s are struggling with the Hispanic vote is worth considering and discussing. But Bob is only deflecting because he has zero interest in how Texas lost those kids and two teachers.

  6. " It voted blue in six presidential races from 1992 to 2012, and then red in 2016 and 2020."

    After Trump's deadly response to COVID, this county votes again for him. This is inexcusable madness.

    1. Would it be impossible to find Places where the inverse occurred? Probably not. These places, however, would be of zero interest to Bob.

  7. "“You really can’t win an election with a bumper sticker that says: ‘Well, we can’t do much, but the other side is worse.’”

    — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), quote by Politico, urging a massive course correction for Democrats."

    In my opinion, attacks on the left by the left are unhelpful during an election, If Bernie wants to help Democrats, he should not be joining the party's critics.

    1. He's wrong. Dems have been winning elections with that bumper sticker for decades.

    2. Yeah, they had, when the other side was worse. But that changed.