President Trump hasn't just rewritten the political rule book; he has also redrawn the political map. While plenty like to complain about how the polls got the 2016 election wrong, they got it wrong in only one region of the country: along the Rust Belt and into the Upper Midwest. And that's where Trump pulled out his narrow victory.
We and plenty of others have been somewhat consumed with how that shift came about and whether it represents a fundamental realignment in American politics. But I still don't think people realize how big a shift it was or where exactly it occurred.
Luckily, a new map put together by The Washington Post's graphics team shows it better than just about anything we've seen to date.
Inside Dan Balz's big, must-read piece on the Midwest's relationship with Trump is a map that shows the last time each Trump county voted Republican in a presidential race. As you'll see, there is a massive cluster of counties around the upper Mississippi River that hadn't gone Republican since the 1990s or even the 1980s. Across the rest of the country, such counties are very few and far between.
Here's the map, courtesy of Ted Mellnik and Tim Meko:
And, in fact, there aren't even many along the Rust Belt. Only three counties in Pennsylvania that voted for Trump hadn't also gone for Mitt Romney in 2012. Only five Trump counties in Michigan broke streaks dating back further than George W. Bush's reelection in 2004. And there wasn't much new ground broken in Ohio beyond the northern border.
Of 97 counties that broke Democratic voting streaks that dated back to the 1980s, about half — 45 — were in four states: Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Trump won only two of those states: Wisconsin and Iowa. The narrow win in Wisconsin, as well as other narrow ones in Pennsylvania and Michigan, were decisive in Trump's election win. But it’s also worth emphasizing just how well he did in rural Minnesota. Of the four congressional districts that featured the biggest swings from Romney to Trump, two were in Minnesota. (At the same time, Minnesota also saw the inverse Trump effect — suburban counties swinging against Trump — which is why he lost.)
The question from there is whether this was just a Trump thing or whether the shift will persist without him on the ballot. As Balz notes, Trump's style rubs even many Midwestern supporters who voted for him the wrong way. They placed a rare gamble on an unusual Republican, and whether they stand by that wager will say a lot about future elections in a key region.