The boys from Fairfax didn’t wait one second to announce that the $30 million they ponied up for Trump television ads was money well spent; Wayne-o called his members the “special forces that swung this election” and then asked for a few bucks. Chris-o got on the NRA-ILA website and intoned that the election showed that ‘gun rights are not for sale.’ But gun-nut hyperbole notwithstanding, does Trump owe his victory to the NRA?
In the four ‘firewall’ states (PA, MI, OH, FL) the GOP vote increased 9% – a not-inconsiderable jump. On the other hand, in those same four states, Clinton’s vote in those states showed a deficit of 4%. Overall, Trump’s gain was greater than HRC’s loss, but had she improved on Obama’s 2012 performance by a measly 2%, the aggregate vote for those four, crucial states would have gone her way.
That’s all fine and well except for the fact that statewide totals varied significantly from state to state. Trump won PA by 67,000+ votes out of almost 6 million, he grabbed MI by 11,000 out of 5 mill, the gap was wider in Florida (110,000) and in Ohio, wider still (450,000). So let’s get down to county-level votes and see whether the gun vote shows up or it don’t.
Hillary carried 7 Pennsylvania counties clustered around Philadelphia, which delivered 1,725, 927 votes, or 59% of her statewide vote. Trump won the rural counties which is where there are lots of guns. Except he won Pennsylvania because he also won urban Erie County, which voted nearly 60% for Obama in 2012. In Erie he pulled 11,000 more votes in 2016 than Romney pulled in 2012, but he won by less than 3,000 votes. If Hillary had received the same number of Erie votes in 2016 that came out for Obama in 2012, she would have won the Keystone State.
In Michigan Trump won by two-tenths of one percent. But in 2012 Barack won 20 of the state’s 83 counties, this year HRC prevailed in only 8, including the bloc around Detroit, so the Motor City vote didn’t hold. Hillary’s vote represented a net loss of more than 75,000 votes – and that took care of that. She didn’t lose votes in Wayne because people didn’t come out; she lost votes because upwards of 60,000 people have moved out of Wayne County in just the last five years.
Michigan happens to be a big gun state, but not in places where Democrats ever go looking for votes. Other than Marquette, the northern peninsula is politically deep red, there are more hunting rifles sitting in wall racks than people sitting underneath those racks in their La-Z-Boy chairs. But where Hillary really took a whack was Genesee County, just northwest of Detroit, where 26,000 Democratic votes from 2012 failed to show up in 2016, even though the county still voted blue. What’s the county seat? Flint. How could anyone take the trouble to vote in Flint?
The Ohio results were more dramatic but just the same. Trump gained 178,205 votes, mostly in rural counties, maybe gun owners, maybe not. But the blue team lost 380,259 statewide votes between the two elections – goodbye Buckeye, goodbye. As for the Gunshine State, here we probably do see Advantage NRA, if only because both slates increased statewide totals from 2012 to 2016, but for every new vote that went for HRC, two new votes showed up for Trump. But if Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania had gone blue, she would have been over the top without the Florida vote.
What made at least three of these four states swing from blue to red was not the power or the voice of the NRA; it was the failure of the Democratic Party to address issues like loss of jobs and economic status in those and other states. The NRA didn’t lead the Trump campaign; it latched onto a campaign that had its own dynamic, its own message and its own success.