As I watched the results of the November 8 election results stream in on CNN, I have to admit I was nervous at first. I had a number of bets on the outcome and it at first looked as if Trump might lose. But then Florida fell to the juggernaut that was the Trump campaign. From that point on victory was assured.
I was not always a huge fan of Trump. He never struck me as someone with the potential to galvanize voters. But then I started watching his speeches during the primaries. It was readily apparent he knew how to connect with people.
That’s a true gift. Few politicians have it. Barack Obama has it. Ronald Reagan had it. Donald Trump has it as well. Charisma. It’s a priceless gift.
As I watched Trump speak in June, 2015 it was clear he also had a message. It was a simple one: The average American had been hard done by his/her leaders and Washington needed to start putting Americans first.
Everything he spoke about was founded on that simple premise. Immigration policies that permitted illegals into the country hurt the average American. Health care policies that curtailed choice and raised costs hurt the average American. Trade policies that saw manufacturing jobs leave the country hurt the average American. On and on, it went. Every plank in his platform addressed one simple question: How does this help or hurt the average American?
I quickly realized that Trump had the potential to not only win the primaries, but the presidential election as well. I recall getting into an argument with Stuart P. Stevens over this assertion. I told Stevens Trump would sweep the primaries. He predicted he would not win even one primary.
After Trump secured the Republican presidential nomination, few commentators and pundits entertained the notion he might actually win the elections. He was dismissed as a demagogue, a stalking horse for Hillary Clinton, a con man who merely wanted to expand his brand. What they all failed to see was that Trump’s simple message was resonating with voters who wanted a better America, a better life for themselves and their families.
In fact, the mainstream media went out of their way to vilify Trump, quoting him out of context on many an occasion, accusing him of being a racist, a bigot, a xenophobe, a war monger and even deranged.
Those of us, however, who actually took the time to listen to what he had to say came away with a different impression of the man and a deeper understanding of his thinking. He is no racist, no bigot, no xenophobe and certainly no war monger.
More than 60 million Americans, evidently, share that opinion and turned out to vote for him on November 8, ensuring that he won the election.
All of which, of course, brings us to the nub of the argument being advanced by Democrats and liberals that while millions of Americans voted for Trump, more people voted for Clinton.
That is true, but it is also of no consequence. The presidential race is not a national popularity contest. It is a series of state-based popularity contests. In other words, the candidate who wins the most states and 270 Electoral College votes wins the election.
This is where most of the pollsters got it wrong. They weighted the polls incorrectly, thinking the national results were being reflected regionally. That led them to underestimate Trump’s support in key states and overestimate Clinton’s appeal.
Trump’s people understood that and the campaign focused on those states where the message would have the most impact – the Rust Belt, a region ravaged by economics and trade policy.
It was a winning strategy and secured Trump 306 electoral votes.
To argue now that Trump did not win the popular vote is to miss the point completely. The object was not to win everywhere, but to win in those states that had previously voted Democrat and to hold onto Republican states.
If presidential elections were a national popularity contest then candidates would campaign in only four states – California, Texas, Florida and New York. That is where the bulk of the population lives. That would be where the bulk of votes would be won.
But the United States is a federation of states and the drafters of the Constitution wanted the federal nature enshrined.
The goal was to win 270 or more Electoral College votes. That is what Trump did and what Clinton did not.