|Donald Trump giving his acceptance speech (Bloomberg photo)|
The Trump campaign focused on turning out rural voters in Rust Belt states. He scored a surprise win in Wisconsin (10 electoral votes) and holds a slim lead in Michigan (16 EVs).
Chuck Todd of NBC News summed it up perfectly when he said during election coverage, "Rural America is basically screaming at us, 'stop overlooking us!'" Veteran NBC anchor Tom Brokaw added, "What we underestimated was the depth of the anger."
Rural Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin played major roles in giving Trump the victory, Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann report for NBC. In Michigan, Trump won rural areas and small towns by a margin of 57 percent to 38 percent, better than Mitt Romney's 53-46 edge in 2012. Trump won rural Pennsylvania 71-26, up from 59-40 for Romney. He also won rural Wisconsin 63-34, compared to 53-46 for Romney.
While Trump was grabbing rural votes, exit polls showed Clinton was performing much worse in metropolitan areas than Obama in 2012. She had 160,000 fewer votes in Detroit and 46,000 less in Philadelphia, Zitner and Overberg note.
Exit polls in 2012 showed that Obama won despite faring worse among white voters than any Democratic candidate since Walter Mondale in 1984, Nate Cohn reports for The New York Times. "Those polls showed that white voters without a degree were now just one-third of the electorate. It was interpreted to mean that there was not much room for additional losses, especially once a white Democrat replaced Obama on the ballot. The truth was that Democrats were far more dependent on white working-class voters than many believed."
The Clinton campaign barely advertised on TV in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan, convinced it didn't need to, Cohn writes. That's the type of attitude that has upset many rural voters, who feel ignored by candidates, David Bernstein reports for WGBH in Boston. Democratic strategist Matt Barron, who has "preached the importance of appealing to those voters," told Bernstein, "Democrats have paid a steep price for ignoring rural/exurban voters for too long, and it has bitten them hard tonight.”
It's not as if they weren't warned. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former governor of Iowa, which Trump carried, tried to resign last year because he was "frustrated with a culture in Washington that too often ignored rural America’s struggles and dismissed its virtues," The Washington Post reported in September.