In the final stretch of his campaign for reelection, President Trump upped his already grueling pandemic tour schedule, clocking a total of 30 rallies in the two weeks before Election Day. According to a new analysis from NBC News, it may have all been for nothing: In 25 out of 30 counties the president visited ahead of November 3, Trump underperformed compared to 2016, either winning by a smaller percentage than last round, losing by a greater margin, or seeing a flip to the Democrats entirely.
The phenomenon was most obvious in Michigan and Pennsylvania, two of the five states that flipped to Joe Biden, resulting in Trump’s Electoral College loss. The president slipped five points in the county that includes Lansing, slipped almost six points in Oakland County northwest of Detroit, and dropped nine points in Grand Traverse County in the northwest of the state. NBC News describes a similar trend in three Pennsylvania counties where Trump made late visits:
Trump visited Erie, the ultimate swing county in the state, on Oct. 20 and in the end the county narrowly flipped to Joe Biden by a single point after narrowly backing Trump in 2016. The president visited Lancaster County on Oct. 26 and he still won it by about 16 points, but that was 3 points less than he won it by in 2016. And on Nov. 2, Trump visited Scranton, in Lackawanna County, but when the votes were tallied he lost the county by more than 8 points, roughly 5 points worse than his loss there in 2016.
The trend does not confirm that Trump’s presence just before Election Day resulted in poor performances; Miami-Dade County, where he made an appearance on Election Eve, saw a crucial 21.7-point swing in his favor, helping to keep Florida in his electoral tally. However, it appears to show that the MAGA rallies were, as intended, located in places that his campaign marked as potential problem areas. And unfortunately for Trump, the phenomenon could not only reveal the limits of appealing to one’s base, but also show how the meet-ups affected voters who were not inclined to brave a pandemic to wait among strangers to see him. “While the crowds were visible sign of enthusiasm for Trump, there were much bigger, and less visible, groups of people who were not at the rallies and who may have seen them in a negative light,” NBC News data analyst Dante Chinni explains. “If the goal of all the barn-storming was to inspire and turn out the Trump base, the data at least suggest the rallies may have stirred the president’s opposition as well.”