What Hillary and the 2003 Yankees Have in Common
A month out from the 2016 election and Clinton's supporters still can't accept their defeat
One month after Election Day, Hillary Clinton still hasn’t — in the words of Chris Wallace — “absolutely accept[ed] the result of the election.” As Wallace put it in the third presidential debate, when addressing Donald Trump, “Sir, there is a tradition in this country … that the loser concedes to the winner and the country comes together in part for the good of the country.” At the time, Clinton called the notion that anyone would do otherwise “horrifying.”
Fast forward to December. Clinton, who lost by the not-exactly-razor-thin margin of 74 electoral votes (306 to 232), has joined a desperate recount effort, while her partisans continue to claim her advantage in the national popular vote somehow carries great weight.
Clinton’s failure to win the electoral vote (or even come close), despite outpacing Trump in the national popular vote, is the result of an obvious fact: She got outfoxed when it came to the electoral map.
In truth, however, it was Clinton’s own botched electoral strategy — and eight years of President Obama’s extreme liberalism — that led to her defeat. Instead of focusing on Main Street voters, Clinton ran her entire campaign out of the Democrats’ identity-politics playbook. Yet, while faring about equally well as previous GOP nominee Mitt Romney among white voters (winning by 21 points versus Romney’s 20), Trump did far better among black voters (losing by 80 points versus Romney’s 87), Latino voters (losing by 36 points versus Romney’s 44), and Asian voters (losing by 36 points versus Romney’s 47). That’s right: An immigration hawk rode to victory while doing better than his GOP predecessor with all races.
Meanwhile, Clinton’s having captured a higher share of the national popular vote is a fact most suitable for future trivia contests. There have been plenty of people or teams that have done well in a way that wasn’t the ultimate object of the game.
In the 2003 World Series, the New York Yankees outscored the Florida Marlins by a tally of 21 runs to 17 runs. But the Marlins beat the Yankees, 4 games to 2. (The Marlins lost twice by scores of 6-1 and won four close games.) The year before, the San Francisco Giants scored more runs than the Anaheim Angels (44 to 41), but the Angels won the series (4 games to 3).
In 1960, the New York Yankees outscored the Pittsburgh Pirates by a margin of more than 2-1 — 55 runs to 27 (winning three times by double digits but losing four games by 7 runs combined). Does Team Hillary think the Yankees should have hung a banner that year and called themselves world champions? Do they think the Pirates should take down the banner that hangs in their stadium today?
To switch sports, Andy Roddick won 39 games to Roger Federer's 38 in the classic 2009 Wimbledon men's final. Yet Federer won the match, 3 sets to 2.
The immediate goals in these three areas of highest-level competition are to score runs (in the World Series), win games (at Wimbledon), and win votes (in presidential elections). But the ultimate object, the thing that decides the winner, is to win the most games (in the World Series), the most sets (Wimbledon), or the most electoral votes (presidential elections). Losing despite tallying more runs in baseball, games in tennis, or votes in presidential races, is strong evidence of a failure to perform when or where it matters most. One might even call it failing to perform in the clutch.
Clinton's failure to win the electoral vote (or even come close), despite outpacing Trump in the national popular vote, is the result of an obvious fact: She got outfoxed when it came to the electoral map.
According to Advertising Age's account (on Oct. 21) of television and radio ad-spending booked by the candidates or their PACs to run between Oct. 21 and Election Day, Clinton spent more than $600,000 between California and Texas. That money likely helped boost her vote tallies in those highly populous states, and hence might have helped her in the national popular vote — but it did nothing to help her win the election.
What's more, from Oct. 21 to Election Day, Clinton was slated to run $691,000 in ads in Arizona, $6.3 million in ads in North Carolina, and $8 million in ads in Ohio — three states that she didn't need to win and didn't come close to winning. She lost by 3.5 points in Arizona, 3.7 points in North Carolina, and 8 points in Ohio. (At least in North Carolina or Ohio she could have effectively delivered a knockout blow had she won, which can't be said of Arizona.) To put that into perspective, Trump was closer to winning in Maine (and did win in its 2nd Congressional District) than Clinton was to winning in any of these three states where she spent a combined $15 million in the race's closing two-and-a-half weeks.
Over that same span, meanwhile, Clinton was slated to spend $0 in Wisconsin (to Trump's $2.5 million), $0 in Michigan (to Trump's $112,000), and $0 in Minnesota (the same as Trump) — three states she needed to win. She lost by 0.8 points in Wisconsin, by 0.2 points in Michigan, and barely won in Minnesota (by 1.5 points). One wonders what would have happened had she not inexplicably neglected to defend these must-win states.
Even with wins in Michigan and Wisconsin, Clinton still would have lost unless she could have pulled Pennsylvania or Florida into her column. But the election would have been a whole lot closer (280 electoral votes to 258), and maybe some of the money — and time — she spent elsewhere could have swung Pennsylvania or Florida (which she lost by 1.1 points apiece) her way.
In short, Clinton wasn't the victim of some rigged system, any more than the Yankees were in 2003 or 1960. On top of the significant headwinds created by Obama, Clinton lost because she botched her electoral strategy and got outsmarted by the Trump campaign. It's time to give her the Al Gore Trophy and move on.
Jeffrey H. Anderson is a Hudson Institute senior fellow and is co-creator of the Anderson & Hester College Football Computer Rankings.