When Donald Trump visited Johnstown, Pa., at the end of last month, I was baffled. Public polls didn't show the race as very close, and nearby Ohio, where Trump trailed, seemed much more attainable. Sure, I figured, Pennsylvania could move toward Trump, but if it did, a slew of other states would be in play as well.
As it turns out, both Trump's and Hillary Clinton's campaigns saw Pennsylvania as winnable from their internal numbers. In Cambria County, home of Johnstown, Trump gained 12,000 votes over Mitt Romney's margin in 2012 — and he won the state by a little over 70,000.
Shows what I know.
Now let me tell you more about what I know.
The extent to which Trump's barnstorming is the reason for his electoral success is certainly debatable. Broadly speaking, it's hard to link an appearance in a state to a candidate's electoral fortunes there. It's not clear the direction in which these things flow: Is Trump visiting Pennsylvania putting the state more in play, or is Pennsylvania more in play, so Trump's visiting?
What we can say is that Trump spent more time in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, the states that moved from blue to red since 2012 and which handed him the presidency. He also spent more time in Arizona and Georgia, two states that shifted to the left over the last four years, but not enough for Trump to lose them.
We took data from the National Journal's candidate Travel Tracker and mapped it, comparing travel from each candidate to how the state's votes changed.
Stops by Clinton (and running mate Tim Kaine):
Stops by Trump (and running mate Mike Pence):
This data ignores two things. First, it ignores the visits of other surrogates — like President Obama for Hillary Clinton. Obama (and the first lady) made a number of stops, particularly in North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
Second, it ignores the broader trend at play, well articulated by the Atlantic's Ron Brownstein. The upper Midwest was already trending away from the Democrats and the Southwest and Sun Belt to them. Trump's candidacy helped spur the former while not hastening the latter.
Clinton's campaign, hobbled by low turnout, didn't do a good job shifting those patterns. She spent most of her time in the traditional battleground states and less time hopscotching the country.
Trump hopscotched the country in part because he liked to. We don't know how much his doing so helped or how much her not doing so hurt. Clinton also appears to have received more actual votes than Trump, meaning that making determinations about which strategy was more successful necessarily has an asterisk or two.
But it's probably fair to say that Trump spending more time in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania didn't hurt him. Despite what those eggheads from the lamestream media might say.