Hillary Clinton arrives at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the day before election night. Andrew Harnik/AP

Trump won the Rust Belt, and the presidency, by taking on longtime Democratic strongholds outside of big cities.

The key to Trump’s victory? As our Atlantic colleague Ronald Brownstein observed before and after the election, the GOP nominee’s path to the White House involved breaching the “blue wall”—the reliably Democratic states of the industrial Northeast and upper Midwest. Pennsylvania and Michigan have each voted Democratic six consecutive times in general elections since 1996. In Wisconsin, it’s seven times since 1988. Trump turned them all, plus swing-state Ohio.

The maps below suggest how it happened. All in all, Clinton’s campaign held official events in just 14 states, according to the nonprofit FairVote, which has been tracking this year’s presidential campaign events. Nearly a quarter of that time was spent in Florida. In fact, Clinton was apparently so sure of her win in Wisconsin that she herself never once set foot there during her campaign.

Clinton instead focused on Pennsylvania, an emerging battleground, with 26 campaign events there. There were only five events—all attended by her running mate Tim Kaine—in Wisconsin, where polls consistently showed that she had a lead. She made three stops in Michigan, once in Grand Rapids and three in Detroit. (In comparison, she personally visited Florida 19 times.)

Trump, meanwhile, visited 25 states altogether, with stops in several non-swing states he seemingly had little chance of winning (Minnesota, for example) as well as in those he was sure to win (Georgia and Indiana). But he and running mate Mike Pence penetrated deep within the blue wall. Trump, for example, went to Michigan eight times between July and Election Day, hitting not only Detroit and Grand Rapids but smaller cities such as Flint and Dimondale. In Wisconsin, which is set to have its lowest turnout rate since 1996, he held five rallies across the state. And in Ohio, he repeatedly ranged farther than Clinton, visiting Canfield, Delaware, and Canton, along with Cincinnati and Cleveland.

When presidential candidates take all the electoral votes in states they win, says Robert Richie of FairVote, campaigns tend to focus all their resources in just a handful of potentially competitive states and ignore the rest of America. The last time a candidate pledged to visit every state in his campaign was when Richard Nixon ran in 1960.

In particular, as Richie wrote in a 2013 paper comparing the electoral college system with the national popular vote movement, modern candidates tend to ignore any state that they don’t think is in play. That’s the strategy President Barack Obama used successfully in the recent past, but in 2016 it contributed to Clinton’s downfall.

“There were 242 electoral votes in states that the Democrats have won six straight times, but Florida wasn’t one of them,” he says, explaining why the Clinton campaign spent so much time in Florida, with a whopping 36 official events there. “She certainly didn’t stretch the map and ultimately didn’t pay as much attention to her base as Trump did in trying to take it away.”

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Four houses of wood and glass sit on the water.
    Environment

    Are These Dutch Floating Homes a Solution for Rising Seas?

    Houseboats have long been a common sight near Amsterdam, but a new community may signal a premise that could work elsewhere, too.

  2. A woman sits reading on a rooftop garden, with the dense city of Tokyo surrounding her.
    Solutions

    Designing a Megacity for Mental Health

    A new report assesses how Tokyo’s infrastructure affects residents’ emotional well-being, offering lessons for other cities.

  3. A city overpass with parked cars and sparse trees
    Civic Life

    How 'Temporary Urbanism' Can Transform Struggling Industrial Towns

    Matchmaking empty spaces with local businesses and the tiny house movement are innovative solutions that can help post-industrial cities across Europe and North America adapt to the future.

  4. Environment

    Visualize the Path of the Eclipse With Live Traffic Data

    On Google Maps, a mass migration in progress.

  5. Life

    Can Anything Stop Rural Decline?

    Small towns across Japan are on the verge of collapse. Whether they can do so gracefully has consequences for societies around the globe.