by Valerie Morales
Kent County, Michigan. 52% Biden. 46% Trump. Months before election day, Grand Rapids, Michigan had a Black Lives Matter protest and thousands showed up at Rosa Parks Circle. Yes, the home of Gerald Ford has a Rosa Parks Circle. The crowd marched until they reached GRPD headquarters, then they chanted “Black Lives Matter.” “George Floyd.” “Say His Name.” “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.” As the night wore on, what was once peaceful turned into a riot. But what stuck with me was the beginning, not the end.
In 1984, Grand Rapids and the entire state of Michigan gave Ronald Reagan a near 60% approval. Regan’s re-election was a breeze. George Bush Sr. won in 1988. And in a losing cause in 1992. Bob Dole won Kent County with 54% of the vote in 1996. And so on and so on, a Republican here and a Republican there, until Barack Obama in 2008 who beat John McCain in Kent County by 1,573 votes. It was a short-lived Democratic joy. Mitt Romney won 53% of the vote in 2012.
Kent County, Michigan isn’t a swing district. A transformational candidate, Barack Obama, barely won and he only won it once. Despite a BLM protest, Grand Rapids is Republican through and through as evidenced by only two Democrats winning in 26 years. Donald Trump’s last rally, perhaps the last of his political career was in Grand Rapids and he said to the crowd “Thank you.”
Erie County, Pennsylvania. 49.9% Biden. 49.8% Trump. About a month ago, a Pennsylvania insider whose name I can’t remember said the most important county in the presidential race in his state was Erie County. Erie County voted for Barack Obama twice and in 2016 voted for Donald Trump. It’s a white working-class rust belt community. The economic message mattered particularly since the Pennsylvania unemployment rate has hovered above the national average. How Erie County voted determined the efficacy of Joe Biden’s message to the white working-class in northwestern Pennsylvania.
Four years earlier, Donald Trump won Erie County by 2,348 votes. His 57,168 votes in 2016 were given a huge boost in 2020. He got 8,800 more votes. But Joe Biden topped that. He received 12,600 more votes than Hillary Clinton. Neither man’s vote haul though could compare to Barack Obama who won Erie in 2008 by 25,000 votes.
Cobb County, Georgia. 56.3% Biden. 42.0% Trump. In 2016, Donald Trump barely lost Cobb County by 6,800 votes. In 2020, he got crushed by suburban women. Biden won Cobb County by 56,000 votes.
In a presidential election, 50% of all votes come from the suburbs. Many suburban women were beyond annoyed at Donald Trump’s misogyny and COVID carelessness. The Donald Trump strategy was to play the law and order card, or the racism card as if it was 1970 instead of 2020.
Cobb County also elected their first black sheriff, Craig Owens. He beat the anti-immigration Republican Neil Warren by a large margin.
Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. 69.4% Biden. 29.4% Trump. Joe Biden only won 14 of 72 counties in Wisconsin. But Milwaukee County allowed Democrats to run up the score. 317,000 voted for Joe Biden in Milwaukee County which was 10% of all registered voters. Biden received 29,000 more votes in Milwaukee County than Hillary Clinton received in 2016. The Wisconsin margin of victory over Donald Trump was only 20,000. All of those votes were necessary.
Democrats were intensely focused on winning Wisconsin. It was necessary to their hopes of recapturing the White House after their 2016 disaster. The same for Donald Trump. He needed a Wisconsin win since liberal Midwestern states like Illinois and Minnesota were out of the question.
The old adage of a big turnout will benefit Democrats proved to be true in Wisconsin. 72% of registered voters voted. They set a record for the number of ballots: 3,296, 374.
Pima County, Arizona. 59.1% Biden. 39.5% Trump. The second-largest county in Arizona delivered much-needed votes for Joe Biden whose fight with Trump was always going to be mano y mano in Maricopa County. Pima County was where Joe Biden could breathe easy and get a lot of votes. He bagged 295,000 of them, a nice cushion to buttress whatever happened in Maricopa County and more than Hillary Clinton’s 225,000 in 2016.
On the Trump side of the equation, Donald Trump also gained but not at the same pace as Biden. He tallied 30,000 more votes (votes all still being counted in Pima County) than in 2016 but he needed about 60,000 to help offset losses in Maricopa County.
While media talk is about Phoenix and Maricopa County, it was Tucson that was pivotal in Trump’s Arizona headache.