Trump and his team have repeatedly insisted that his victory was some sort of overwhelming victory.
“I'm, like, a smart person. I don't have to be told the same thing and the same words every single day for the next eight years,” Trump told Wallace when the subject of his skipping intelligence briefings was raised. That may be the case, but if the lesson isn't sticking, it's worth revisiting. So here we go.
If we extend the record back to 1856, the first contest pitting the two major parties against one another, Trump's 2016 win is below average on every single metric.
On electoral votes, Trump's electoral vote total is not a landslide by any measure; the total number of electoral votes won is below average (even including years when fewer total electoral votes were available). As a percentage of all electoral votes, Trump was below average as well.
(Rankings are out of 41 total contests since 1856.)
Trump's popular vote loss was in fact historic. Trump's loss in the popular vote was three times all previous popular vote losses from an eventual president combined. As a percentage of votes cast, Trump's margin was the second worst loss among eventual presidents over the past 160 years.
Vice president-elect Mike Pence has repeatedly noted the number of states won by the pair to suggest that Trump over-performed. On that metric, too, Trump comes up short — again including elections during which there were fewer than 50 states.
Last week, we asked our readers to weigh in, telling us what constituted a “landslide” in their eyes. We also asked people to identify who they supported in the election, to see if there was a difference in the responses. There was: Trump voters argued that a lower electoral vote total and lower popular vote total were required for an election to be a landslide than did Hillary Clinton voters. In fact, under the Trump supporters' guidelines, 2008 would count as a landslide for Barack Obama in the electoral college.
But the key point is this: In our unscientific survey, even Trump supporters didn't think Trump's win counted.
(You'll notice in the popular vote graphs above that we didn't include the actual percent of the vote itself. Trump is at 46 percent of the total votes cast, putting him in 36th of 41 contests, and below the average of 51.7 percent.)
There's no question that Trump's victory was a surprise. National polling indicated a Clinton popular vote win, which came to pass. But polling in the Rust Belt showed wider support for Clinton than manifested on Election Day, and that made the difference. Trump won, despite the odds.
But that shouldn't be confused with Trump winning big. He clearly wants to dispel concerns about the validity of his victory, particularly in light of the new reports of Russian interference.
Part of it, too, seems to be some general insecurity about the size of his win. Trump's win wasn't quite small enough to be counted on one hand, but it was certainly small enough to suggest a divided electorate. It wasn't a massive landslide victory. And if that corrective needs to be issued every single day for the next eight years, then so be it.