In the days ahead there will be lots of recriminations about what went wrong for Hillary Clinton and what broke well for Donald Trump. I’ll try to be selective because a lot of what will be said is hindsight and speculative. Let’s start.
John Cassidy (New Yorker) can take the lead on this one with How Donald Trump became President-elect.
Historians will be debating what happened on Tuesday for decades—centuries, perhaps. But there are some assertions that we can already make. The polls were wrong, for one thing: on average, going into Election Day, they had predicted that Hillary Clinton would win the popular vote by about four per cent. The early voting analyses were wrong, too: most of them said that Trump was too far behind in Florida to win that pivotal state. And journalists (myself included) were wrong: we mistakenly trusted the polls instead of what we saw before our eyes—huge crowds turning out for Donald Trump at rallies all over the country. The Clinton campaign, which as late as Monday evening was expressing a high degree of confidence, was also wrong.
Meanwhile, Trump, I hate to say it, was right: he achieved the Brexit-style upset he had promised, riding a surge of turnout among white working-class voters to carry the key southern states of Florida and North Carolina, put a scare into the Clinton campaign in Virginia, and then stormed across the Midwest and the Rust Belt, breaking through Clinton’s so-called “blue wall,” and picking up Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and perhaps Michigan, which, as of early Wednesday morning, still hadn’t been officially called. Trump appeared to be heading for more than three hundred votes in the Electoral College.
I should note here that, with many votes on the West Coast still to be counted, it is still possible that Clinton will wind up the winner of the popular vote. According to the New York Times‘s live forecast, which incorporates the latest voting numbers, her margin of victory will be somewhere around one per cent. But in the Electoral College, which doesn’t apportion votes directly in proportion to population, big Democratic states like California, Illinois, and New York get a raw deal. According to some estimates, Democrats need a two-point victory, or thereabouts, to reach two hundred and seventy votes in the Electoral College. In this case, as it was in 2000, that handicap was too large to overcome.
Pending a fuller analysis of the voter returns, any conclusions must be preliminary, but at least five other factors seem to have been key to Trump’s victory in the Electoral College.
First, despite all the talk of his lack of campaign organization, Trump’s base of white working-class voters turned out in large numbers. …
Second, Trump appears to have done better than expected among college-educated white voters.
The third factor was that, in some parts of the country, Clinton failed to rack up the margins of victory she needed among minority voters and the young.
Fourth, and this cannot be avoided, men were primarily responsible for Trump’s triumph.
Finally, and this shouldn’t be ignored either, the relatively well-to-do went for Trump. … How can this finding be reconciled with the thesis that the white working class was the driver of Trump’s victory? A large part of the answer is that a lot of white voters without college degrees earn more than fifty thousand dollars a year. The lowest-paid voters tend to be younger people and minorities, and they went for Clinton. In that sense, she won the working-class vote.
Check out Cassidy’s essay for elaboration of his five points.