Let’s separate numbers from hype, shall we?

Number Crunching

Listening to some online pundits and TV talking heads, you’d think Donald Trump’s election victory yesterday was the greatest upset landslide in all of history. To be fair, Trump and his people deserve credit for salvaging a terrible campaign with a novice candidate, and pushing him across the finish line.

We all hope for the best from a Trump Administration. But, we must not fall into the trap of thinking “happy days are here again” now that he has won. There is no giant tidal wave sweeping this nation pushing to crown Trump “king of America.”

At best, Trump’s win almost didn’t happen at all, despite the fact he ran against perhaps the most damaged candidate in the modern ear to run for the Presidency– Hillary Clinton and her multitudinous baggage.

So, in order to assess what happens next and get a better handle on what just happened, let’s put away the punditry and look at the real numbers.  While not the final figures, as of 8 p.m. on Wednesday, November 9, 2016,  the best numbers from numerous sources are as listed below.

Of note, it appears that just like Al Gore in 2000, Hillary may have won the popular vote and lost the Electoral College.

Clinton – 59,856,355 votes (47.7%)
Trump – 59,639,462 votes (47.5%)
[Clinton is currently holding a 216,893 vote lead]

Trump has 290 electoral votes. Clinton has 232 electoral votes. (At this time Michigan hasn’t been called yet, but Trump is leading there roughly 12,000 votes. So, he may yet add Michigan’s 16 EV’s to his total).

This is hardly a “landslide blowout.” Franklin Graham posted on Facebook that it was the biggest landslide victory in his lifetime. His memory is conveniently short if he doesn’t remember Ronald Reagan’s two major landslide victories.

  • In 1980, Reagan defeated sitting President Jimmy Carter by almost 10% of the vote and won the electoral college 489-49.
  • In 1984, Reagan defeated Walter Mondale by over 18% of the vote (winning 49 states) and won the electoral college 525-13.

Those were landslides, Rev. Graham. Trump’s showing was not.

Another interesting set of numbers revealing the true nature of the race is total votes cast. At around 120 million total votes between the two main candidates, this pales in comparison with the last two elections.

  • In 2008, Obama/McCain voters cast over 129 million votes – around 9 million more than yesterday.
  • In 2012, Obama/Romney voters cast around 127 million votes – around 7 million more than yesterday.

There was no huge surge of voters in this election; in fact, quite the opposite. Now, that is not to say more voters didn’t come out for Trump. He did bring many new voters, or previously non-active voters, out in this election.

And yet, Trump garnered fewer votes while winning 2016 than either McCain or Romney got while losing. In fact, over a million fewer Republican votes were cast for President this year than in 2012.

The real story in this election is that Hillary got around 6 million fewer votes than Obama got in 2012 again– and almost 10 million fewer than Obama got in 2008. Hillary was unable to get Democrats out to the polls in the same numbers that propelled Obama to his two terms in the Oval Office.

I am willing to believe if a serious analysis was done in several large cities, it’d be obvious that minority vote numbers for Hillary are considerably down from those of Obama.

Yes, Trump mobilized more rural, blue-collar whites as a percentage. But, they were not enough to put him over the top. It was Hillary’s failure to get urban Democrats and minority voters out in force for her.

I would be extremely interested to see a comparison of 2012 and 2016 vote totals from large cities like Philadelphia, Cleveland, Detroit, and other traditionally strong Democrat voting bases. This election was Hillary’s to lose; and lose it she did.

Another factor coming to light is Trump’s handful of razor-thin, swing state victories. Let’s look at just three examples:

  • In Florida, Trump won the state by approx. 120,000 votes – a little over one percent of total votes cast.
  • In Pennsylvania, Trump won the state by approx. 68,000 votes. Again, around one percent of total votes cast.
  • In Wisconsin, Trump won the state by approx. 27,000 votes cast. Once again, around one percent of votes cast.

These three states have 29, 20, and 10 electoral votes respectively. So, by around a total of 215,000 votes, Trump won (and Hillary lost) the Presidency. Give Hillary these three states, the Electoral College numbers almost exactly flip, and she is President by around the same margin of victory as Trump has.

If we take this number – 215,000 – and factor it into the total number of votes recorded so far – 119,495,817 – that means that Trump’s margin of victory was around 2/10ths of one percent.  In other words, not a “blow out” at all.

Now, let’s look for a moment at the religious voters in this election. Evangelical leaders have been crowing for some time about how huge the support for Trump was among evangelicals. Before the election, Trump courted evangelicals like an anxious beau. But, did his efforts lead to a massive level of support in the end?

Not really… The number of evangelicals who voted for Trump was 81 percent- up two points from Romney’s support. Despite what the “religious right” is  now proclaiming, evangelicals did not make a huge difference in the election, other than sticking with the GOP candidate in typical fashion.

There was impressive movement was among Catholic voters. For the first time since 1984, a majority of Catholics supported the Republican candidate. Trump won the Catholic vote by seven percentage points over Hillary.

Was this because Catholics are enamored with Trump? Again, probably not. The American Catholic Bishops issued strong statements to their flocks that voting for a staunch pro-abortion candidate was sinful. Since Hillary is an extremist on this issue (favoring brutal partial-birth abortions right up to the moment of delivery), it may well have been the Catholic vote was in opposition to Hillary’s barbarism. Once more, this election was far more about Hillary’s weaknesses and failures than it was about Trump’s strengths.

Let’s also briefly look at what happened regarding to Congress. In the Senate, the Republicans lost half of their 4 seat majority. That means they’ll require at least 8 Democrats to side with them if they want to move legislation, given the current 60 vote Cloture threshold. Granted, it could have been far worse, but we mustn’t think Trump will have Congress as a rubber stamp for his agenda. The Senate Democrats will fight him every step of the way.

In the House, the Republicans lost 6 seats, but still maintain a healthy majority (around 241-194). Look to the House to move any conservative agenda, as they have done in opposition to Obama’s extremism. But, the Senate will remain the “log jam.”

To summarize, the nation is still as divided as ever, even after Trump’s victory. If Hillary’s popular vote lead holds, it will be 2000 all over again– with Democrats challenging Trump’s legitimacy.

  • Second, Trump’s win was a big surprise, and a welcome one for many as the “Clinton era” may now be over. (That depends on Hillary’s health over the next 4 years, though.) But, it was certainly not a “landslide victory.”
  • Third, this was Hillary’s election to lose and she did just that. There was no huge tidal wave of Trump support across the country. He had pockets of intense support which aided his win, but given the reduced voting numbers of Republicans, he can’t claim some new era of politics has dawned on his watch.
  • Fourth, for all the faith compromising many evangelicals did in support of Trump, their efforts were minimally helpful to his victory. Was it a price too high to pay for one’s reputation? Time will tell.
  • Fifth, social issues like abortion can be winning issues for conservatives if they are expressed properly. If Trump was truly a serious pro-lifer, his margins with Catholic voters may have been double what they were. He owes the American Catholic Bishops big time!
  • Sixth, since neither Trump nor Hillary got a majority of the votes – around 48% each – no one can claim a “mandate.” Just like the primaries, Trump had more American voters vote against him than voted for him. He is like Bill Clinton in his two election wins in this regard.

I hope this analysis helps to put things into perspective. I also realize some of my stated numbers may change. But, in the end I don’t think I’m too far wrong. After all, unlike the pollsters, I waited until the election was over to use real numbers to describe what has happened.

Russ Hepler

Russ Hepler is a pastor, teacher, political activist, author, and conference speaker with over 30 years of experience. He holds a B.A. from Messiah College and an M.A.R. from Evangelical School of Theology. He has been an issues’ advocate, a campaign volunteer for local, state, and federal candidates, Regional Field Director for PA Christian Coalition, president of a county chapter of Pennsylvanians for Human Life, local Republican Committeeman, and an elected member of a town council. He is also a former and current homeschooler and taught in a Christian school (middle school History and Bible) for a number of years. He was formerly a blog writer for The Federalist Papers Project with over 900 articles published. He has been a guest on the American Family Radio program Today’s Issues with Tim Wildmon and on the Bill Martinez Live radio show. One of his sermons – Father’s Day – Where Have All the Heroes Gone? – was featured on the American Pastors’ Network. His first book – Yes! We Can Turn This Nation Around! A Practical Guide for Christian Political Involvement – was published in 2012. It has recently been updated and expanded for 2016 – Yes! We STILL Can Turn This Nation Around! An Updated and Expanded Practical Guide for Christian Political Involvement. Both works are available at Amazon.com. He and his wife, Sherry, have founded Transformation 1202 Ministries to educate, encourage, and challenge people of faith to get involved in the political and cultural issues of our day. The ministry has a website, a blog, and a Facebook page: Turn This Nation Around.

  1. Thank you for laying out all the numbers. Listening to pundits and politicos talk about a “mandate” and a “landslide” was aggravating to say the least.

    Another data point of interest, based on exit polls, is the “why” people voted. She lost this race because voters in the right amounts in the right states voted against her; he won by default.

    The surprise and shock value are being used to buck up his political capital, but like many other things, it is just smoke, mirrors, and hype.

  2. Yes, unfortunately, we need to add Franklin Graham to the list. What disappointed me was that many people in our church decided to vote for Trump based on Franklin Graham’s saying that we should vote based on the SCOTUS vacancy. When someone said that to me, I responded by saying that he is basically recommending that we should vote for Trump. They disagreed saying that he only said we should vote based on SCOTUS. Duh, connect the dots people.

    But what is really disappointing is that Franklin Graham didn’t have the decency to actually come out and endorse Trump. Rather he used the back door to get evangelicals to vote for Trump. And we bought it.

  3. Listen up Brothers and Sisters, Joshua puts another nail in the Republican party coffin. We need to keep our eyes on the nails in the Cross and reflect on Him. Just sayin’.

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