Florida has long been considered a crucial swing state in U.S. presidential elections. In 2016, Hillary Clinton lost its 29 electoral votes to Donald Trump on the path to her electoral college defeat. But could Clinton have won the presidency even if she had lost Florida’s support? If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Yes, Clinton could have potentially won the 2016 election, even without Florida’s electoral votes, by holding all states Democrats won in 2012 and flipping Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

In this comprehensive analysis, we’ll assess Clinton’s electoral map strategy, model alternative paths to victory without Florida, analyze polling data in key Rust Belt states, and identify what factors would have been necessary for Clinton to reach 270 electoral votes after losing Florida in 2016.

Clinton’s 2016 Electoral Map Strategy

During the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton’s campaign had a strategic electoral map that focused on several key battleground states. One of the central components of this strategy was the importance of Florida in securing victory.

Relying on Florida as Key Battleground

Florida, with its 29 electoral votes, has always been a highly contested state in presidential elections. Clinton’s campaign recognized the significance of winning Florida and invested substantial resources in the state.

They believed that a victory in Florida would give them a strong advantage in the overall Electoral College count.

Clinton’s team utilized a comprehensive ground game, focusing on voter registration, mobilization, and persuasion efforts in Florida. They targeted key demographics, such as minority communities and college-educated voters, to maximize their chances of success.

However, despite their efforts, Clinton narrowly lost Florida to Donald Trump by a slim margin.

Targeting Sun Belt Expansion

In addition to Florida, Clinton’s strategy included a focus on expanding the Democratic base in the Sun Belt states. These states, including Arizona, Georgia, and North Carolina, were traditionally Republican strongholds but had shown signs of shifting demographics and potential Democratic support.

Clinton’s campaign believed that by investing resources and time in these states, they could not only win them but also force the Trump campaign to divert resources away from the crucial Rust Belt states.

However, while Clinton made significant gains in some Sun Belt states, she ultimately fell short of securing victory in any of them.

Failing to Shore Up Rust Belt

One of the critical shortcomings of Clinton’s electoral map strategy was the failure to secure the Rust Belt states. These states, including Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, had traditionally voted Democratic in presidential elections. However, in 2016, they flipped to support Donald Trump.

Clinton’s campaign underestimated the extent of voter dissatisfaction in these states, particularly among working-class voters who felt left behind by globalization and economic changes. The failure to connect with these voters and address their concerns ultimately proved detrimental to Clinton’s chances of winning the election.

Modeling Clinton’s Path Without Florida

Florida has always been a crucial swing state in presidential elections, and the 2016 race was no exception. The state’s 29 electoral votes played a significant role in determining the outcome of the election.

However, let’s explore the hypothetical scenario of Hillary Clinton winning the election without Florida.

Starting Electoral Vote Count

Without Florida’s 29 electoral votes, Clinton’s path to victory would have been more challenging. She would have started with a lower electoral vote count, which would have required her to gain votes in other key battleground states.

At the beginning of the election, the electoral vote count stood at 270 votes needed to win. Without Florida, Clinton would have started with a deficit, making it necessary for her to secure votes in other states.

Gaining Pennsylvania’s 20 Votes

Pennsylvania, with its 20 electoral votes, would have become an even more critical battleground state for Clinton without Florida. In this hypothetical scenario, winning Pennsylvania would have been crucial for her path to victory.

Clinton’s campaign would have needed to focus more resources and energy on winning over Pennsylvania voters. The campaign would have likely employed various strategies to appeal to the state’s diverse population and secure those crucial 20 electoral votes.

Winning Michigan’s 16 Votes

Another critical state for Clinton’s hypothetical path to victory without Florida would have been Michigan. The state’s 16 electoral votes could have made a significant difference in the final outcome of the election.

Michigan was traditionally considered a Democratic stronghold, but it had been experiencing economic challenges that resonated with many voters. Clinton’s campaign would have needed to address these concerns and win over the electorate to secure Michigan’s electoral votes.

Flipping Wisconsin’s 10 Votes

Lastly, flipping Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes would have been crucial for Clinton’s path to victory without Florida. Wisconsin had not gone to a Republican candidate since Ronald Reagan’s landslide victory in 1984.

Clinton’s campaign would have needed to focus on mobilizing the Democratic base in Wisconsin and appealing to swing voters to secure these 10 electoral votes. Wisconsin’s demographics and political landscape would have played a pivotal role in determining the success of Clinton’s campaign in the state.

Competitiveness in Rust Belt States Pre-Election

One of the key factors that contributed to the outcome of the 2016 election was the competitiveness of the Rust Belt states. These states, including Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, were traditionally Democratic strongholds, but in 2016, they played a crucial role in determining the winner of the election.

Pennsylvania Polling Average

Pennsylvania, with its 20 electoral votes, was a battleground state in the 2016 election. Prior to the election, the polling average in Pennsylvania showed a close race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Clinton had a slight lead in the polls, but it was within the margin of error, indicating a highly competitive race. The outcome of the election in Pennsylvania proved to be a turning point, as Trump won the state by a narrow margin, securing its electoral votes.

Michigan Polling Data

Michigan, another Rust Belt state, was also closely contested in the 2016 election. The polling data in Michigan showed a similar trend to Pennsylvania, with a close race between Clinton and Trump. However, in the days leading up to the election, there was a slight shift in the polls, with Trump gaining momentum.

This shift ultimately contributed to Trump’s victory in Michigan, as he won the state by a narrow margin of just over 10,000 votes.

Wisconsin Polling Prior to Election Day

Wisconsin, like Pennsylvania and Michigan, was a traditionally Democratic state that Trump was able to win in 2016. The polling prior to Election Day in Wisconsin indicated a competitive race, with Clinton and Trump neck and neck in the polls.

However, Trump was able to secure a victory in Wisconsin by a narrow margin, winning the state by less than 1 percentage point.

Keys to Winning Rust Belt Without Florida

While Florida is often considered a crucial battleground state in presidential elections, it is not the only path to victory. In the case of the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton could have potentially won without winning Florida by focusing on the Rust Belt states.

Here are some key strategies that could have helped her secure a victory in this region:

Increased Late Ad Spending

One of the key factors that could have helped Clinton win the Rust Belt without Florida is increased late ad spending. By strategically targeting swing states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin with a strong ad campaign in the final weeks leading up to the election, Clinton could have swayed undecided voters and energized her base.

Studies have shown that late ad spending can have a significant impact on voter behavior, especially in close races.

More Campaign Events in Key States

Another strategy that could have made a difference in the Rust Belt states is holding more campaign events in key states. By visiting towns and cities across Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, Clinton could have connected with voters on a more personal level and demonstrated her commitment to revitalizing the manufacturing industry in these areas.

Building strong relationships with voters through face-to-face interactions can be a powerful tool in winning their support.

Stronger Messaging on Manufacturing Jobs

One area where Clinton could have improved her chances in the Rust Belt without Florida is by crafting a stronger message on manufacturing jobs. This region has been hit hard by the decline in manufacturing, and many voters were looking for a candidate who could offer solutions to revitalize the industry and bring back lost jobs.

By focusing on her plans for job creation and emphasizing her experience in working on economic issues, Clinton could have resonated with Rust Belt voters and gained their trust.

While winning Florida is often seen as a key component of a successful presidential campaign, it is not the only path to victory. By implementing these strategies and focusing on the Rust Belt states, Hillary Clinton could have potentially secured the presidency in 2016, even without winning Florida.


While losing Florida would have made Hillary Clinton’s path to victory narrower in 2016, our analysis shows she could have potentially compensated by tightly contesting Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. However, it would have required recognizing vulnerabilities and motivating the Democratic base in Rust Belt states earlier in the campaign.

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