Hillary Clinton’s Expectations, and Her Ultimate Campaign MisstepsHillary wound up losing white Catholics 60-37, and narrowly losing a lot of Great Lakes States in the Electoral College.
By AMY CHOZICK NOV. 9, 2016
Last year, a prominent group of supporters asked Hillary Clinton to address a prestigious St. Patrick’s Day gathering at the University of Notre Dame, an invitation that previous presidential candidates had jumped on.
Barack Obama and Joseph R. Biden Jr. had each addressed the group, and former President Bill Clinton was eager for his wife to attend. But Mrs. Clinton’s campaign refused, explaining to the organizers that white Catholics were not the audience she needed to spend time reaching out to. …
And she ceded the white working-class voters who backed Mr. Clinton in 1992. Though she would never have won this demographic, her husband insisted that her campaign aides do more to try to cut into Mr. Trump’s support with these voters. They declined, reasoning that she was better off targeting college-educated suburban voters by hitting Mr. Trump on his temperament.
Instead, they targeted the emerging electorate of young, Latino and African-American voters who catapulted Mr. Obama to victory twice, expecting, mistakenly, that this coalition would support her in nearly the same numbers. They did not.Yeah, it would have. She lost Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin and their 46 Electoral Votes, enough to put her over the top, by a little over 100,000 votes.
In the end, Mr. Trump’s simple promise to “Make America Great Again,” a catchphrase Mrs. Clinton dismissed as a vow to return to a racist past already long disappeared, would draw enough white Americans to the polls to make up for his low minority support.
“The emerging demographic majority isn’t quite there yet,” said Anita Dunn, a Democratic strategist and former White House communications director. “The idea you can get to a presidential campaign and just press a button and they’ll vote, it’s not there yet.” …
Early on, Mr. Clinton had pleaded with Robby Mook, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign manager, to do more outreach with working-class white and rural voters. But his advice fell on deaf ears.
The sophisticated data modeling Mr. Mook relied on showed that young, Latino and black voters would turn out as they had hoped. But while they favored Mrs. Clinton overwhelmingly, she could not run up the score with them like Mr. Obama had in 2012.
With voters 29 and younger, for example, Mrs. Clinton won by 18 points, down from Mr. Obama’s 22 points in 2012, and 29 points in 2008, according to exit polls conducted by Edison Research.
The Clinton campaign was also betting on college-educated suburban voters who ended up drifting away from Mrs. Clinton in the final days, which the campaign attributes to the F.B.I.’s renewed focus on her emails as early voting began.
A spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, Brian Fallon, said the campaign did not cede white working-class voters to Mr. Trump, pointing to a bus tour Mr. and Mrs. Clinton and her running mate, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, went on in rural pockets of Ohio and Pennsylvania after the Democratic National Convention in July. He added that shaving into Mr. Trump’s lead among these voters would not have given Mrs. Clinton a path to victory.
The campaign also appeared to overestimate how offended Mr. Trump’s female supporters would be by an “Access Hollywood” recording in which Mr. Trump is heard bragging about grabbing women by the genitals. Mr. Trump lost among women by 12 percentage points, exit polls showed, about the same deficit Mitt Romney had in 2012.
In the final weeks of the campaign, a despondent Mr. Clinton held a flurry of his own events in Ohio, Iowa, the Florida Panhandle and Wisconsin, talking to the white voters who like him but who view his wife with distrust.
“I think Bill Clinton was right” about the need to concentrate more in those areas, said Jay S. Jacobs, a prominent New York Democrat, pointing to Mr. Trump’s victories in Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan, states Mrs. Clinton’s campaign had largely overlooked.
Former Gov. Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania also said he had encouraged campaign aides at Mrs. Clinton’s Brooklyn headquarters to spread their vast resources outside Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and focus on rural white pockets of the state. “We had the resources to do both,” Mr. Rendell said Wednesday. “The campaign — and this was coming from Brooklyn — didn’t want to do it.” (Mr. Trump won Pennsylvania by one percentage point.)
But Mr. Jacobs and others said Mrs. Clinton’s campaign leadership thought Mrs. Clinton was an imperfect messenger to connect with Rust Belt voters on issues like global trade deals, which she had previously supported.
“In 2000 and 2008, working-class voters saw her as their champion — it was the core of her support,” said Mark Penn, the chief strategist of Mrs. Clinton’s 2008 campaign. “By 2016, issues of trade, stagnated wages and immigration had piled up, and Trump was successful at exploiting those against her.”
The situation was made worse in September, when Mrs. Clinton described half of Trump supporters as a “basket of deplorables.” Afterward, she told one adviser that she knew she had “just stepped in it.”
And in the end, Mr. Trump’s Twitter feed proved more powerful than any of Mrs. Clinton’s poll-tested slogans, said Hank Sheinkopf, a veteran Democratic political consultant.
“Class anger won,” he said, delivering a staggering defeat to the Clinton strategy of “more money, more consultants, more polling and more of a campaign based on what we thought we knew rather than what the electorate felt.”