Michigan was among the top states in the nation in our number of “pivot” counties — those that voted for Barack Obama twice (in 2008 and 2012) and Donald Trump once, last fall.
Twelve counties in Michigan (out of a total of 83) were “pivot” counties, tying us with Illinois for fifth-most in the country. The national leader was Iowa, with 41 counties; followed by Wisconsin, with 22, and Minnesota and New York, with 19 apiece.
Those were the findings compiled by Ballotpedia, an online website that tracks elections at all levels in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and a number of U.S. territories.
The 12 Michigan “pivot” counties were Bay, Calhoun, Eaton, Gogebic, Isabella, Lake, Macomb, Manistee, Monroe, Saginaw, Shiawassee, and Van Buren.
Trump’s largest margin of victory in those 12 counties came in Lake — historically one of the most reliably Democratic counties in outstate Michigan — with 22.8%. Obama carried Lake by 5.0% in 2012. Obama’s largest margin in these dozen “pivot” counties in 2012 came in Saginaw, which he carried by 11.9%. But Hillary Clinton lost Saginaw to Trump by 1.1% in 2016. The biggest disparity between a Obama victory (in 2012) and a Hillary Clinton loss in a “pivot” county came in Gogebic, where the swing was a whopping 23%.
Nationwide, Ballotpedia found 206 “pivot” counties located in 34 states. The state with the highest percentage of “pivot” counties was Maine, where 50% of the state’s 16 counties flipped from Obama to Trump.
Nationally, these 206 “pivot” counties cast 7.5 million votes in 2016, which accounts for 5.5% of all votes cast in the general election last Nov. 8, according to Ballotpedia.
Between 2012 and 2016, the Democratic popular vote margin declined by 2.1 million votes. Even though the 206 counties made up only 5 per cent of the total votes cast, they accounted for 51 per cent of the decline.
Of these 206 counties, 57 of them voted for the eventual winner in each presidential election dating back to 2000.
A small number of these counties could be considered bellwethers in modern presidential elections, Ballotpedia says. Of the 2016 “pivot” counties, 22 of them (10.7%) have voted for the winning presidential candidate in every election dating back to 1984. Among those 22 counties, two (9.0%) voted for the winning candidate in every election since 1960. Those two counties were NOT in Michigan — they were Valencia County, New Mexico, and Vigo County, Indiana.