Democrats Would Do Well to Acknowledge Differences in Blue Wall Counties in 2020
WASHINGTON – Blue Wall counties that flipped to Trump in 2016 were smaller, had a less skilled workforce, and had fewer businesses than their safe blue neighbors, but most importantly, they were all predisposed to struggle in the face of manufacturing decline, a new report says.
In light of these realities, it says, Democrats looking to compete in these communities in 2020 need to heed the divide between flip and safe counties — and ensure their solutions to problems are specifically tailored to help both thrive.
The analysis of the diverging economic dynamism within states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, comes from the public policy think tank Third Way.
In addition to looking at why certain counties flipped from supporting President Barack Obama’s re-election bid in 2012, to voting for Trump in 2016, the report tries to answer an even larger question — has Trump done enough to revive the struggling manufacturing industry in his first term to hold onto these counties in 2020.
For those who either don’t remember or have purposely put it out of their minds, Donald Trump won the presidency by beating Hillary Clinton in these battleground states by just 77,744 votes.
While numerous political and economic forces contribute to how the Blue Wall is won, 68 counties spread across the three states offer valuable insight.
One of the surprises in 2016 was that many traditionally blue strongholds flipped in favor of Donald Trump. Specifically, out of 3,112 counties in the United States, 223 counties flipped from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016. This is roughly half the number of counties that stayed safely blue, voting for Obama and then Hillary Clinton.
These numbers are being heavily scrutinized this primary season.
Former Vice President Joe Biden just enjoyed a large victory over Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., winning in every single county in the Michigan primary. Sanders won all but 10 of Michigan’s 83 counties four years ago in a surprise upset of the eventual Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.
According to an analysis by the Chicago Tribune, published the day before the Michigan contest, there are 206 counties across the nation that flipped from Obama to Trump in 2016, and of those, 85 had voted by March 9.
Biden has won 41, to 18 for Sanders. Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who since has exited the race, won 20, all in Iowa. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, another former candidate, won four, two in Iowa and two in her native Minnesota, while two other such counties remain too close to call.
Wisconsin, in which 22 counties that voted for Obama switched to Trump in 2016, will hold is Democratic primary on April 7; while Pennsylvania, where only three counties flipped to Trump, will cast its primary ballots on April 28.
Jillian McGrath, an economic policy advisor at Third Way writes that Democrats looking to compete in Blue Wall states in 2020 need to be mindful of the fact flip counties have fewer businesses than safe blue counties.
The average safe blue county has over 10,000 independent privately owned businesses, about five times that of flip counties, which only host just over 2,000, she writes.
Additionally, since 2000, for every 100 residents between 2000 and 2016, flip counties lost twenty three businesses while safe blue counties added sixty, she added.
McGrath also noted that flip and safe-blue counties, despite residing next to each other in some cases, experienced the economy differently in the same time frame.
Flip counties have fewer people, businesses, and skills—leaving them in a far more precarious position during an economic downturn. And when a county overly relies on an industry that has taken a beating since 2000, it sets them up to fall further behind their neighbors.
The Blue Wall states were known for their strength in manufacturing durable goods—from Detroit, Michigan to Janesville, Wisconsin. However, manufacturing strength in this region became a liability in the 2000s, when the American manufacturing industry experienced significant decline across the country.
That decline affected flip counties far more than safe blue counties in the Blue Wall. In 2000, almost 25% of workers in flip counties worked in manufacturing—about double that of safe counties and the nation as a whole.
By 2016, flip counties in the Blue Wall still disproportionately relied on manufacturing. Loss of these well-paying, stable jobs with benefits contributed to significant decline in regional dynamism in flip counties. Safe counties, with more diverse labor market bases, had less to lose when manufacturing began to crumble in the region, McGrath wrote.
She concluded by noting that President Trump ran his 2016 campaign on reviving struggling industries and helping Americans in left-behind regions.
“In reality, he failed to deliver for regions badly in need,” she wrote.
Recent employment data shows manufacturing jobs across the country are in peril—so much so that industry indicators and economists declared manufacturing in a full-blown recession at the end of 2019.12
“This national slump is especially acute in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, where manufacturing jobs continue to shed despite strong job growth numbers in general,” McGrath said.
In The News
WASHINGTON - Lindsay Singleton, longtime managing director at ROKK Solutions, will now also serve as lead of its new practice area: social impact communications. The practice, launched Tuesday by the bipartisan political communications firm, will assist organizations in amplifying their social impact efforts and messaging to... Read More
WASHINGTON – The federal debt owed by the United States government is expected to grow over the next 30 years to almost twice the size of the nation’s economy, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s Long-Term Budget Outlook report. While the average deficit over the past... Read More
DETROIT — In an about face on mail-in voting in Michigan, President Donald Trump took to Twitter Monday to encourage voters to request absentee ballots and vote early. Trump’s latest messaging on mail-in voting marks a mercurial swing from May, when the president threatened to withhold... Read More
WASHINGTON — The House will vote Tuesday on a short-term funding bill written by majority Democrats without support from Republicans, increasing the odds of a partial government shutdown in less than 10 days when current spending authority expires. The Democrats’ bill would remove agriculture and nutrition... Read More
Within hours of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death Friday evening, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that President Donald Trump’s nominee would get a vote. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer put out a statement as well. “The American people should have a voice in the... Read More
WASHINGTON — Donald Trump is moving toward nominating Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, according to people familiar with the matter, despite the president saying Monday he’s considering as many as five candidates. Barrett is a favorite... Read More