Rhode Island certainly isn’t Trump Country, but contrary to popular belief it doesn’t appear to be Clinton Country either.
While Donald Trump shocked the world by pulling off an upset for the ages against Hillary Clinton last night, he lost badly here in Rhode Island taking only 40 percent of the vote compared to Clinton’s 54 percent. But the Trump coalition won nearly the same amount of votes as the past three Republican candidates. Clinton, on the other hand, won the least votes of any Democratic candidate for president since her husband first sought the office in 1992.
Here’s a chart of what the past 16 years look like. If the trend continues, Rhode Island will by a red state by about 2024.
Trump did do slightly better than the last few Republicans to run for president. He won 165,214 votes here this year. Mitt Romney received 157,204 votes four years ago, and eight years ago John McCain received 165,391. George W. Bush took 161,852 votes in 2004. Not since he ran as a compassionate conservative in 2000, had a Republican done significantly worse than Trump did this year. Bush won 130,555 votes in Rhode Island in 2000.
Many Rhode Island Republicans may have told you they weren’t going to vote for Trump, but the GOP vote totals appear to be relatively static. However, there is some evidence the GOP base in moving out of the suburbs and into the country. Clinton won typically conservative-leaning East Greenwich, while this was one of the few towns in the state Romney carried four years ago. More rural Richmond, on the other hand, flipped from supporting Obama in 2012 to supporting Trump this year.
The bigger story might be how poorly Clinton performed compared to recent Democratic candidates for president. She won only 224,627 this year, the worst performance by a Democrat in the Ocean State in nearly a quarter of a century.
Barack Obama took 279,677 votes four years ago – 55,050 more than Clinton won this year. In 2008, he won 296,571 – that’s 71,944 more than Clinton. In 2004, John Kerry won 248,265 in 2004 and in 2000 Al Gore took 249,508 – both got more than 20,000 votes than Clinton did last night. She was bested by her husband in 1996, who took 233,050 votes, but in 1992 Bill Clinton won only 213,299 votes. You have to go back nearly a quarter of a century since a Democrat won as few votes as Hillary Clinton did.
Even if Hillary Clinton took every vote cast for a third party candidate – libertarian Gary Johnson won 13,373 votes, Green Party candidate Jill Stein took 5,717 and there were 8,341 write-in votes, many of which surely went to Bernie Sanders – it still would have been 12 years since a Democrat did so badly in the Ocean State.
It’s unlikely, at this point, that Greens or Libertarians would want to join the big tent of the Democratic Party. Both Johnson and Stein’s stock is on the rise – he won almost three times as many votes here as he did four years ago and she won more than twice what she won four years ago. That’s in stark contrast to the GOP, which seems somewhat flat-lined in presidential contests, and the Democrats, which seem to be spiraling downward.