Hillary Clinton lost the election in the Midwest. Donald Trump won 50 Midwestern electoral votes that went to Barack Obama in 2012 — Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio. Plus 20 more in Pennsylvania, where the two-thirds of voters beyond metro Philadelphia are Midwestern in culture and concerns. Trump could have lost Florida and still won.
In the popular vote Clinton came close to equaling the Obama's 2012 percentages in the South and not-yet-fully-counted West, and her 4 percent drop in the Northeast cost her no electoral votes. But in the Midwest plus Pennsylvania the Democratic presidential percentage dropped from 54 percent in 2008 and 51 percent in 2012 to 45 percent in 2016.
Those drops came mostly outside the Midwest's million-plus metros, though black turnout sagged notably in Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee. University towns turned in their typical lopsided majorities, 68 to 26 percent in metro Madison, Wis.
But in Midwestern outstates, counties outside million-plus metro areas, the shift away from Clinton looked like the shifts of white Southerners away from Democrats in decades past.
Iowa, the largest state with no million-plus metro areas was typical: 54 percent Democratic in 2008, 52 in 2012, 41 percent in 2016. The drop is similar in Wisconsin outside Milwaukee and Madison (54 to 50 to 41 percent), Michigan outside Detroit and Grand Rapids (55 to 52 to 41 percent), Ohio outside Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati (48 to 47 to 35 percent), Pennsylvania outside Philadelphia and Pittsburgh (48 to 44 to 36 percent).
Similar outstate drops were not quite enough to carry Minnesota for Trump and were swamped in Illinois by metro Chicago. But they were enough to switch the Midwest electoral vote from 80-38 Democratic in 2012 to 88-30 Republican this year.
These areas aren't growing demographically, but they're not tiny either. They cast 100 percent of votes in Iowa, 61 percent in Wisconsin, 47 percent in Michigan and Pennsylvania, 44 percent in Ohio.
What accounts for the abandonment of Hillary Clinton in areas hitherto reachable for Democrats?
The outstate Midwest is loaded with non-college-graduate whites — 62 percent in Iowa, for instance. Nationally that demographic moved from +25 percent Romney in 2012 to +39 percent Trump in 2016. In the Midwest outstates the shift was even more vivid.
Such voters have been bypassed by sluggish Obama era economic growth and many believe their jobs have been lost by trade agreements and their wages undercut by low-skill immigrants in other parts of the country. Trump emphasized these issues and previous Republicans hadn't. That's part of it.
There's also the condescension of Clinton and her campaign headquartered in trendy Brooklyn. "Religious beliefs," candidate Clinton said in 2015, "have to be changed." She told a Manhattan audience that half of Trump supporters were "deplorables" and "irredeemables" characterized by "implicit racism."
Outstate people who voted for Obama, or whose neighbors or friends at church did, probably weren't attracted by such statements. Decent people don't like to be called racists and told that their religion needs to be changed (by the government?).
The Clinton campaign's strategy to win over folks beyond Brooklyn and Manhattan was to send "West Wing" actors into Ohio and hold a concert with Beyonce and Lady Gaga in Philadelphia. That's going to do it!
One other factor worked against Clinton in the outstate Midwest. Honesty.
People in the outstate Midwest value honesty. They react against public officials who break laws, flout regulations and repeatedly lie and try to cover it up. As Hillary Clinton did with her secret email server.
In the 1970s the outstate Midwest broke against Republicans because of Watergate. Democratic victories in two Outstate Michigan House special elections in 1974 signaled their displeasure with Richard Nixon and the Democratic sweep in elections that fall. Dozens of Democratic politicians began successful long outstate careers in the Watergate years.
Liberal pundits Jonathan Alter and E. J. Dionne characterized the Clinton email lawbreaking and lies as "non-scandals." Maybe in Chicago and Massachusetts, where they grew up. Not in the outstate Midwest.
Hints of Clinton's general election weakness came in Democratic primaries, when she lost outstates badly in Wisconsin and Michigan and ran barely even in Iowa, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Maybe outstaters were voting not for Bernie Sanders's socialism but against Hillary Clinton's "damn emails."
Team Clinton is now saying they were beaten by James Comey's interventions. But Comey would not have been heard from if Clinton hadn't broken the law. That's a vote-loser in the outstate Midwest — and an election-loser in America.