Donald Trump Won. Barely.

Donald Trump won. Barely.

Don’t get me wrong it was a dramatic upset. Historic.

But numerically this thing was very close.

Trump lost the popular vote, but won the Electoral College. That’s close. Tick tight.

The Donald knew The Reason he was there in the first place and that sustained the campaign for a year and a half. Trump had a Why and it could fit on a bumper sticker “I’m calling Bravo Sierra on DC. She’s DC.” At the end, he refined it to “Drain The Swamp.”

At every step of the campaign whether he was getting beaten up in the debates, the press, or on social media, Trump sat very tall in his saddle and would return to the attack on anything especially if it was affiliated with Washington, DC.

Whether it was the Republican Establishment – collectively or individually – the media, or the Democratic Establishment – from Hillary Clinton to President Obama – Trump was always on the attack with the target being Washington.

Ever since Watergate ended with the resignation of President Nixon, outside Washington candidates almost always win. President George HW Bush is the exception and he lasted only one term. Running against DC is a pretty easy sell. Look at the winning history.

1976 – Governor Jimmy Carter
1980 – Governor Ronald Reagan
1988 – VP George HW Bush (one term loss)
1992 – Governor Bill Clinton
2000 – Governor George W. Bush
2008 – Senator Barack Obama (still in his first term)
2016 – New York businessman Donald Trump

But let’s also look at the Losers

1976 – VP Gerald Ford
1980 – President Jimmy Carter
1984 – former VP Walter Mondale
1988 – Governor Mike Dukakis
1992 – President George HW Bush
1996 – Senator Bob Dole
2000 – VP Al Gore
2004 – Senator John Kerrey
2008 – Senator John McCain
2012 – Governor Mitt Romney
2016 – Secretary of State/Senator/FLOTUS Hillary Clinton

Eleven elections and only two were outsiders – both governors of Massachusetts. Nine DC Insiders.

Early in my first campaign for the House of Delegates in 2001, I heard one constant theme from the thousands of doors I knocked on or conversations I had with voters. Thousands.

And it was crystal clear with some visceral intensity “Get in there and shake things up!”
I’ll never forget it. Ever.

Later in that campaign, our culture was changed with the attacks on 9/11. The political ethos changed as well to one of bipartisanship and Working Together – but the subtext was certain – “we don’t trust government, shake it up!”

All too often candidates win and shift their presence from representing the people to the government and they end up representing the government to the people. 

It’s a not so subtle shift. They become Them and forget Us.

Still, the Outsider of all Outsiders was down double digits less than three weeks ago. But Trump had developed discipline and a honed, less hostile message while his opponent started receiving serious body blows that took their toll.

Trump’s team delivered some consistent hard jabs but the Clinton campaign and money were able to turn them away. WikiLeaks, Obamacare premium increases, and letter to Congress from FBI Director James Comey, however, were the gut shots that doomed the chances of Hillary Clinton.

Were they by themselves the reasons why Trump won/Clinton lost? No. They simply and dramatically fed an existing narrative that Trump carried all along – DC is corrupt and not working to help the people. She’s DC.

The theme was there and consciously so for enough voters who in the end voted against her rather than for him.

That was the battle on the airwaves, the cable shows, and in print or social media.

The ground game was another matter. Democrats have had a distinct ground game advantage over Republicans since they realized after the 2004 Bush re-elect that they must be unified and organized. Over time, the GOP has been able to play catch up and chip away at this advantage.

What has not been mentioned at all by the data crunchers is that Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin all had something important in common – Republican governors. Pennsylvania did change to a Democratic governor in 2015, but still the depth of the political infrastructure was there in every state that Trump HAD to win.

Trump won Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin with a combined margin of 107,000 votes. By way of contrast, Hillary Clinton won Washington,DC along with its surrounding localities of Prince George’s and Montgomery counties in Maryland and Fairfax/ Arlington counties, Alexandria city in Virginia by a combined 1,073,000 votes. She carried the District of Columbia with 92% of the vote.
Over time the data will be dissected ad nauseam and that will reveal some interesting information, but the bottom line is this – Outsider of Outsiders Donald Trump called BS on DC and Hillary Clinton was DC. He won, she lost.

Calling Bravo Sierra on DC is one thing. Actually Draining The Swamp will be interesting since the Swamp voted overwhelmingly for itself – but then again, don’t we all? Don’t we always?

Chris Saxman

About Chris Saxman

Father of four, small business leader, retired politician, and Executive Committee member and former Chairman of an international trade association, Chris Saxman delivers strategy and insight as a political coach and keynote speaker. Contact Chris.

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