Also probably not true…
There are several major problems with the idea that Clinton’s Electoral College tactics cost her the election. For one thing, winning Wisconsin and Michigan — states that Clinton is rightly accused of ignoring — would not have sufficed to win her the Electoral College. She’d also have needed Pennsylvania, Florida or another state where she campaigned extensively. For another, Clinton spent almost twice as much money as Trump on her campaign in total. So even if she devoted a smaller share of her budget to a particular state or a particular activity, it may nonetheless have amounted to more resources overall (5 percent of a $969 million budget is more than 8 percent of a $531 million one).
But most importantly, the changes in the vote from 2012 to 2016 are much better explained by demographics than by where the campaigns spent their time and money. Let me start with a couple of simple comparisons that I think pretty convincingly demonstrate this, and then we’ll attempt a more rigorous approach.
- Comparison No. 1: Clinton spent literally no time in Wisconsin, whereas Trump repeatedly campaigned in the state. Wisconsin turned red. But so did Pennsylvania, where both candidates campaigned extensively. Trump’s margin of victory in each state was almost identical, in fact — 0.8 percentage points in Wisconsin and 0.7 percentage points in Pennsylvania. That strongly implies that the demographic commonalities between Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — both of them have lots of white voters without college degrees — mattered a lot more than the difference in campaign tactics.
- Comparison No. 2: As I mentioned, Trump campaigned a lot more than Clinton in Wisconsin, and it turned red. But Trump also campaigned a lot more than Clinton in Colorado — it actually had the largest gap of any state in where the candidates spent their time. Colorado remained blue, however, with Clinton winning it by about the same margin that Obama won it by in 2012. The difference is that Colorado has relatively few white voters without college degrees, while Wisconsin has lots of them. Again, that strongly implies that demographics rather than campaign tactics drove the shift in the results.
Regression analysis follows that is of some interest.