Falling short.

Photographer: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Clinton Lost Pennsylvania More Than Trump Won It

Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the executive editor of Bloomberg News, before which he was a reporter, bureau chief and executive Washington editor at the Wall Street Journal.
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I was surprised by the presidential election. I'm still amazed by Pennsylvania.

Before Nov. 8, I thought that six of the seven battleground states  were tossups. The exception was Pennsylvania, where I spent a number of days reporting, made scores of calls and concluded it was in the Hillary Clinton column.

The conventional wisdom now is that Donald Trump broke the Democrats' blue wall, starting with the Keystone State, with a surge of working-class and middle-class voters. A closer look at Pennsylvania's balloting produces a different conclusion: Democrats of all stripes -- young people, members of minority groups, suburbanites and working-class loyalists -- just didn't turn out the way they did for President Barack Obama. This was less about Trump than about Clinton.

"He got out his vote but she underperformed their expectations," concludes Terry Madonna who runs the poll at Franklin & Marshall College which, like the Bloomberg Politics October survey, foresaw a Clinton victory.

If she had produced anywhere near Obama's 2012 tallies with young voters and blacks she would have won Pennsylvania instead of losing it by about 70,000 votes.

The Clinton strategy wasn't complicated: match Obama's big margins Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and run up even bigger scores in the vote-rich Philadelphia suburbs, areas that together account for almost half the state's vote. Then she'd have been safe even if lagging Obama by 5 percent to 10 percent elsewhere.

She won Pittsburgh and Philadelphia by the margins anticipated. But in Philadelphia there were almost 100,000 fewer voters than four years ago. Clinton also dominated the four suburban counties -- including Chester, which the Republican Mitt Romney carried in 2012 and where Melania Trump campaigned right before the election -- by more than Obama did. But turnout was up less than expected.

There were Democratic strongholds where Trump's performance was impressive. He came close in Scranton, which Obama and native son Joe Biden won by 16 percentage points in 2012. And he won in Wilkes-Barre and Erie, which Obama had carried easily.

The Pennsylvania exit polls are revealing. They show Clinton underperforming Obama among voters younger than 30. Worse from her perspective, those voters comprised only 16 percent of the overall tally, compared to 19 percent in 2012. More telling, blacks, who voted overwhelmingly for Clinton, were only 10 percent of the electorate, down from 13 percent last time. If black voters had made up 12 percent of the Pennsylvania electorate, she probably would have won the state.

The Keystone state coalition that the Clinton team envisioned was a winning one. They just didn't have a candidate who could deliver it. That's a lesson for the Democrats' painful post-mortem.

  1. Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Albert R. Hunt at ahunt1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Jonathan Landman at jlandman4@bloomberg.net