The architecture of Biden’s Victory was more prosaic. He made modest progress on Hillary Clinton’s achievement almost everywhere, including rural America. And he took advantage of widespread dissatisfaction – or dislike – with Trump in coast-to-coast suburbs.
Here are the 21 revisited battlefields with a look at the role they played in the election of Biden to the White House.
- 1 1. Maricopa County, Arizona.
- 2 2. Omaha, Neb., Subway area
- 3 3. Dubuque County, Iowa
- 4 4. Philadelphia and its suburbs
- 5 5. Northeastern Pennsylvania
- 6 6. Erie County, Pa.
- 7 7. Miami-Dade County, Fla.
- 8 8. Orange County, Fla.
- 9 9. Lee County, Fla.
- 10 10. Metro Atlanta
- 11 11. Tarrant County, Texas
- 12 12. Collin County, Texas
- 13 13. Districts of Mecklenburg and Wake, N.C.
- 14 14. Clark County, Nev.
- 15 15. Kent County, Mich.
- 16 16. Southeast Michigan
- 17 17. Dane County, Wis.
- 18 18. Wisconsin’s WOW counties
- 19 19. Wisconsin’s BOW Counties
- 20 20. Minnesota’s iron chain
- 21 21. Olmsted County, Minn.
1. Maricopa County, Arizona.
Before Election Day, the question in Arizona was whether this would be the year Maricopa County would break its 72-year Republican term. It was.
In the Phoenix metropolitan area and more than 60 percent of Arizona voters, it’s almost impossible to win nationwide without winning here. In 2016, Trump Maricopa narrowly won. This time he loses 50-48 percent, with 98 percent of the estimated votes reported.
After Labor Day, the Phoenix media market saw more ad spend than anywhere else in the nation, but that didn’t sink Trump. Biden ran 7 points ahead of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 pace in the county. More importantly, in a state where the Latino population has grown significantly, Biden’s turnout was in full swing – something that couldn’t be said everywhere. In Maricopa County, according to the UCLA Latino Politics and Policy InitiativeBiden received over 75% of the vote in high-latino-density areas.
2. Omaha, Neb., Subway area
Nebraska is one of only two states – the other is Maine – that distribute electoral college votes by district. And one of those counties, the Omaha-based 2nd, is much more favorable to Democrats than the rest of the state.
Biden took the opportunity by increasing his score in Democratic Omaha and taking advantage of Trump’s weakness in his largely Republican suburbs. His victory was only the second time in over half a century that Nebraska had given a Democratic presidential candidate one of its electoral votes. The other democrat who does the trick? Barack Obama in 2008.
3. Dubuque County, Iowa
Thirty-one counties in Iowa switched to Trump in 2016 after voting for Obama twice, more than anywhere else in the nation. Each of them stayed with the president when they were re-elected that year and helped deliver the state to Trump a second time.
Dubuque County in northeast Iowa was the most populous country among the so-called Pivot Counties. Here, in the most Roman Catholic part of the state, Trump even increased his score and was three percentage points ahead of his 2016 performance. Biden ran two points better than Clinton but stayed behind, which is a reminder that in the places which he freaked out on in 2016 gave relatively little erosion to support Trump.
4. Philadelphia and its suburbs
As the world watched the mail-in votes count on the cameras in Pennsylvania, Biden got the margins he needed from the largest city in the state and its suburbs.
Biden swept the four counties around Philadelphia – Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery – and took a huge lead out of the state’s largest city. However, he appears to have missed Hillary Clinton’s 2016 margin in Philadelphia, at least in part because of Trump’s improved performance in the city.
If you’d told the Democrats before Election Day that Biden would defeat Clinton by thousands of votes in Philadelphia, panic would have occurred. But in the end it didn’t matter. Biden outperformed Clinton in each of the populous suburban boroughs, while Trump lagged about a point behind his own 2016 results. In affluent and well-educated Chester County, Biden ran nearly 6 points better than the 2016 Democratic nominee. Biden also did slightly better than Clinton in many rural counties, making his lead over Philadelphia less critical.
5. Northeastern Pennsylvania
Trump needed a high turnout and larger margins in working-class places like Lucerne counties and Lackawanna counties, traditional centers of the democratic population in northeastern Pennsylvania that drew undue attention from both Trump and Biden.
While both districts recorded higher voter turnouts than in 2016, Trump’s performance was static: he won essentially the same percentage of alfalfa and lackawanna as it did four years ago. However, Biden made incremental gains over Clinton in both counties – the same kind of petty ball he played across the state.
Lackawanna, home of Biden’s birthplace, Scranton, gave the former vice president 54 percent, compared with 50 percent for Clinton. Biden ran three points better than Clinton in Lucerne. Still, the effectiveness of Biden’s “Scranton Versus Park Avenue” message was limited – in Lackawanna County, Biden was nowhere near Obama’s 62 percent clip in 2012.
6. Erie County, Pa.
In 2016, Trump became the first Republican to wear Erie County since Ronald Reagan. Four years later, Biden Erie appears to have moved into the Democratic group. With 98 percent of the estimated votes cast, Biden leads Trump with 49.7 to 48.6 percent.
The first signs of discontent surfaced here in 2018, when this traditionally democratic and industrial part of northwestern Pennsylvania turned back to the candidates for Democratic governor and Senate.
Just like in 2016, the district functioned as a kind of bell tower that year. Trump’s 48 percent here in 2016 was on par with his nationwide performance. In 2020, the results mirrored the nationwide results, with Biden at 49.7 percent and Trump at 49.1 percent.
7. Miami-Dade County, Fla.
Biden had an important job: top the score in Miami-Dade County, where Democrats typically have to build a lot of headroom to make up their losses elsewhere in the state. He didn’t do that and it cost him 29 votes in Florida.
Leading up to election day, the former vice president’s weakness in the state’s most populous county was no secret. Even so, the results were still shocking. In 2016, Clinton won here with a blowout of 63 to 34 percent. Biden was able to win with anemic 53-46 percent.
The Trump administration’s long-standing focus on the Cuban-American community in Miami and the anti-socialist and legal and regulatory messages from his campaign paid off that went beyond the top of the ticket – two Democratic members of Congress also fell victim to defeat here.
8. Orange County, Fla.
Explosive growth – among whites and people of Puerto Rican roots – has turned Orange County into a democratic giant.
Turnout can be uneven, but this year Central Florida County Democratic Base was extradited. With a record-breaking voter turnout of 75 percent, Biden won 65,000 more votes than Clinton and was 150,000 ahead of Trump. The problem? Trump also saw a surge in support compared to 2016, three points ahead of his 2016 pace in Orange County. It wasn’t nearly enough for Trump to win the county, but it helped limit the damage.
9. Lee County, Fla.
To win Florida, Trump needed healthy margins in the Fort Myers-Naples media market on the state’s Gulf Coast – this is vital for Republican candidates across the state. He achieved those margins in fast-growing Lee County, where it won 42,000 more votes than in 2016. With 60 percent or more of the vote in Lee and nearby counties Charlotte and Collier, Trump kept pace to win Florida for a second.
10. Metro Atlanta
The nation could watch Trump’s Georgia slowly bleed out on live television as the metropolitan Atlanta votes poured in, gradually giving Biden the lead in the days following election day. The competition remains so tight that there is a recount.
In a state that has not voted for a Democratic candidate since 1996, Cobb, DeKalb, Gwinnett and Atlanta’s Fulton County have jointly delivered a tough verdict on the GOP president. Together, they provided Biden with 271,000 more votes than Clinton in 2016, offsetting Trump’s rural performance. In Cobb and Gwinnett, both unique GOP strongholds, Biden did 8 percentage points better than Clinton.
11. Tarrant County, Texas
The Democratic dream of a blue Texas has not come true, but Biden is still on the verge of an eye-opening feat. With 98 percent of the estimated votes cast, he leads Trump with 49.3 to 49.1 percent in Fort Worth’s Tarrant County.
Tarrant, the third largest county in the state, last voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in 1964. In the suburbs, however, GOP margins are declining due to population growth and an increasingly diverse population, paving the way for Biden’s breakthrough.
The problem for Biden Tuesday, however, was that despite victories in places like Tarrant County and in the state’s largest cities, it was still not enough to beat the big rural vote in a state with 254 counties.
12. Collin County, Texas
Suburban opposition to Trump was a defining feature of the elections in Sun Belt areas like this. Coupled with rapid population growth and a diversifying electorate, it seemed like the year the Democrats could finally break the GOP’s hold on Collin County.
That turned out to be wishful thinking. Here in the northern Dallas suburbs, Biden stayed behind, losing 51-47 percent. However, his performance was a dramatic improvement over 2016 – he ran 9 percentage points better than Clinton.
13. Districts of Mecklenburg and Wake, N.C.
Biden crushed Trump in North Carolina’s two most populous counties, Charlotte’s Mecklenburg County and affluent and well-educated Wake County in the state research triangle. Together they gave him an advantage of 364,000 votes over Trump.
It was exactly the kind of improved performance Democrats needed from the two fast-growing counties, but it seems it still wasn’t enough. With 98 percent of the estimated votes cast, Trump leads Biden nationwide with 50.0 to 48.6 percent.
That advantage was built in rural North Carolina, where Trump posted consistent margins across the 75 counties he won. Nationwide, Trump won 58 percent of the votes in the country, according to polls.
14. Clark County, Nev.
Biden’s victory in Nevada was built in Clark County, the state’s Democratic stronghold, and sealed there on Saturday when the county’s postal vote further strengthened Biden’s position.
Clark County, home of Las Vegas, took to the national stage in the days before and after the election due to a host of Republican litigation related to postal ballot counting and processing. Not long after Pennsylvania was called up for Biden Saturday, Nevada was also going to go to the former vice president, partly because the rural counties – where Trump was the strongest – didn’t have enough votes left to vote the mail-in ballots overcome being counted in Clark County, where Biden dominated the mail-in voting.
There have been some questions about the effectiveness of the vaunted Democratic floor game this year – it got off to a late start due to the coronavirus. But the Biden campaign, supported by the powerful culinary union, did succeed in the end. With 92 percent of the estimated votes reported in Clark County, Biden led Trump with 54-44 percent.
15. Kent County, Mich.
In a final attempt to keep Michigan in the group, Trump traveled to Grand Rapids on the eve of the election. The visit made sense: he went there for his last rally of the 2016 campaign and won Kent County by 48-45 percent at the time.
This time, Trump’s efforts lagged in the population center of republican West Michigan. Biden turned the once-dependable Republican county around, in part because its suburbs challenged Trump’s style and rhetoric. Trump also lagged behind his 2016 pace in populous neighboring Ottawa County.
Overall, the president managed to raise his raw voice in most parts of the state, including West Michigan. Those gains, however, were curbed a bit by Biden, who was ahead of Clinton’s performance almost everywhere.
16. Southeast Michigan
Against the backdrop of a record-breaking US voter turnout, Biden blew open the doors on the elective Detroit metro, ensuring Trump had no way of winning Michigan a second time.
Biden won 68,000 more votes than Clinton in Detroit’s Wayne County and 95,000 more in the suburb of Oakland County, where the turnout reached 75 percent. Biden even made profits in Macomb County, the working-class suburb that Trump found hard after he voted for Obama. While Trump managed to wear Macomb a second time, Biden ran three percentage points better and 50,000 votes ahead of Clinton.
Trump’s narrow 2016 win in Michigan is often attributed to a drop in turnout in Detroit, where Clinton won about 47,000 fewer votes than Obama in the city in 2012. This time, oddly enough, Biden won even fewer votes in town than Clinton. But it made little difference in terms of the margins he made in Counties Wayne and Oakland, the two most populous in the state.
17. Dane County, Wis.
Dane County, home of the University of Wisconsin and the state capital, is reliably blue. But this year it was particularly motivated to vote democratically. The turnout in the state’s second largest county was an impressive 89 percent, with 76 to 23 percent voting mostly against Trump.
Combined with Milwaukee County, which also caused a landslide for Biden, the two counties gained a 364,000 vote lead that even Trump’s considerable strength in rural Wisconsin could not overcome.
Danes large numbers symbolized Biden’s accomplishment in college countries across the country. Like Dane, many of them saw that Biden was 4 to 6 percentage points ahead of Clinton, while Trump’s share in those places remained unchanged.
18. Wisconsin’s WOW counties
Wisconsin’s two Democratic strongholds, Dane and Milwaukee, delivered massive margins to Biden. But the so-called WOW counties (Waukesha, Ozaukee, and Washington) outside the city of Milwaukee couldn’t stand up for Trump.
After underperforming all three Republican suburban counties in 2016, Trump repeated the feat again Tuesday, particularly in the Waukesha and Ozaukee counties, where his percentages lagged far behind Mitt Romney’s pace in 2012.
In a poll where Biden was four percentage points higher than Clinton in the suburbs and nine percent higher in urban areas, even Trump’s rural strength couldn’t make up for the difference, according to Wisconsin exit polls.
19. Wisconsin’s BOW Counties
The two presidential campaigns and outside groups have poured more than $ 20 million into post-Labor Day television advertising to reach northern Wisconsin and the state’s BOW counties (Brown, Outagamie, and Winnebago), three population centers in and around Green Bay.
In the Biden campaign, those working-class voters – in Green Bay, Appleton, Oshkosh, and other nearby locations – were within reach, but all three counties voted for Trump for a second time. Still, it wasn’t a total loss for Biden: he won more votes than Clinton in each of the counties and reduced his deficit in that region by around 7,200 votes compared to 2016.
In a state that was apparently decided with around 21,000 votes, that’s nothing.
20. Minnesota’s iron chain
Trump has achieved his goal of dominating rural Minnesota this year. The problem was that in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, which was even bigger than 2016, it was inundated by democratic fringes.
The president was particularly focused on the iron chain in northeast Minnesota, a historically democratic mining region that has been trending Republican in recent years. There he encountered a problem he was familiar with in many states: While Trump was able to increase his numbers in rural districts, Biden regularly outperformed Clinton by several percentage points even when he lost.
And at the Iron Range population center, Duluth’s St. Louis County – Vice President Mike Pence’s first visit since the GOP National Congress and a place Trump himself visited in the last few weeks of the campaign – Biden won 5 percentage points ahead of Clinton’s 2016 result.
21. Olmsted County, Minn.
Southern Minnesota has not been nearly as hospitable to Trump this year as it was in 2016. Four years ago, the president swept nearly every district in southern Minnesota, a reflection of his strength in the Upper Mississippi River Valley region.
The only place was Olmsted County, home of Rochester and the Mayo Clinic. Clinton won there in a squeaker in 2016 with 45.3 percent to Trump’s 44.5 percent. That put Rochester, the state’s third largest city and the most populous city in southeast Minnesota, high on the president’s radar, leading to a campaign visit from Trump a week before the elections. Last minute attention didn’t work: Olmsted slumped hard against Biden, securing him a 10-point win.
Three other counties in southern Minnesota did the same – each of them was a so-called pivot county that voted for Obama twice before switching to Trump in 2016