The View from Virginia - The Morning After

November 10, 2016
Source: Nana Yaa Ofori-Atta
The View from Virginia - The Morning After

For Hilary Clinton, 2016 presidential contender for the Democrats, genteel Virginia was a’ keep it in the bag’ state as opposed to the hard ‘Must Deliver’ battle ground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida.

The hard truth is that across the country, an estimated 3 - 4 million Democrat voters stayed at home, marking the lowest turnout of Democrats in 20 years, sayeth the pundits.  In the mix of the no shows was apparently the non-white and millennial vote.

In their reluctant stead came the upsurge now known as the ‘whitelash’ - low income low education largely white males - they presented themselves in droves at polling station after polling station across the industrial rust belt.  Suddenly, it seemed that every state including Virginia and Michigan and …. they became a matter of urgency.  

To be fair, voter turnout in America has spluttered from 52.3% in 2008 to an estimated 57.5% in 2012.  When Bush the Junior presented himself for the first time in 2000, voter turnout was 54.2%, at his re-  election in 2004, an engaged 60.4% of voters turned out.

The reports that in the last days of campaigning, only 2 of the 11 national polls everyone seems to have relied on called it for Trump with a lead over Clinton.  The numbers from the pollsters framed which states were served up as ‘battleground’  and boy were they wrong.

Trump took North Carolina with ease and whilst everyone was not looking or scrambling, he did what he threatened -broke the blue line - and snatched Pennsylvania and Michigan.  And where the Blue line held, Trump kicked at the door or menaced over the wall.  If it is any consideration, Ghana’s pollster par excellence, Ben Ephson now has good company, in the doldrums.  The pollsters got it wrong with the U.K.’s Brexit referendum and now with Trump. 


In the cold light of day, Hilary Clinton did translate well with women voters across the country besting Trump by 13 points.  And it must be pointed out that Obama brought in the same numbers of the women vote.  Another way of looking at is is that women voted on issues and not a gender backlash.  

The much touted Latino and other non white as well as the millennial votes eyed up by the Clinton team either collapsed or worse yet, they simply didn’t turn up to vote in significant enough numbers to counter the whitelash.   This is particularly disturbing.  In 2012, 82% of registered Latino’s voted. 

The obvious surely was to ensure that they were registered, perhaps they were.  The motivation to vote fell far short of Obama’s historic levels of engagement with a wide cross section of voters.  Including white males without a college education.

In Virginia, Clinton won all of the 13 electoral votes turning in 48% of the popular vote, beating Donald Trump back by a wafer thin majority of 2%.  On matters local, being the 10th Congressional District, the first term incumbent Republican cemented herself back to the Senate, defeating her Democrat competitor by 53%-47%.  The Democrat’s vice presidential candidate (a certain Paine) was a former governor or Virginia, it seems locally, there was little bounce factor to be earned of him as well. It should also be pointed out that in Virginia, Obama won in 2012 and 2008 with a higher margin than Clinton delivered.

In a surreal - in that it was happening in the first place and he wasn’t frothing as usual at the mouth - President elect Trump told a triumphant crowd in New York City at dawn today “The campaign is over…now the work begins.” 

The man who will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America made the speech of his life - another one - during which he thanked “Secretary Clinton” and her family for staying the course.  For once, Trump did not dismiss refer to her as ‘crooked Hilary”.

Trump and Clinton are likely the two most reviled candidates in the colourful history of America’s presidential dog and pony show.


Like Trump, Mrs. Clinton will address her supporters and the media later today in New York City.  The first former First Lady who went on to become a Senator, then Secretary of State, the first woman to be endorsed by a major party as presidential nominee … her first words will signal if like Trump she recognizes that in the cold light of day, there is quiet reflection required.  History has literally been re written by these 2.  One line may be familiar - it seems that Mrs Clinton like a Democratic contender before her - Al Gore - may have won the popular vote after all.  She didn't deliver the 270 votes required by the electoral college.  If the tables were turned, would the Trump we have come to know called Clinton at dawn to concede?


’The View From Virginia’ is a series of commissioned online articles written by Nana Yaa Ofori-Atta, Special Correspondent, USA Election 2016, for the Business and Financial Times