Critical Counties: How Trump seized the map and Clinton lost it

Updated 9:37 AM ET, Sat November 19, 2016

Chat with us in Facebook Messenger. Find out what's happening in the world as it unfolds.

Story highlights

  • The stunning result was the culmination of a lot of factors
  • Trump outperformed his polls in some key areas while Clinton failed to turn her map into a reality

Throughout the fall, we ran a series called Critical Counties, exploring 11 counties around the country that chief national correspondent John King identified as key in the 2016 election. Here's a look back.

Washington (CNN)

Donald Trump overcame long odds to win the election in part because of Hillary Clinton's failure to seize the structural advantages she had entering the general election.
    Trump managed to walk away with Ohio and even took Pennsylvania, a state no Republican presidential nominee had won in decades. And the margins were close in some places like Michigan, a state most thought was comfortably in the blue column.
    The stunning result was the culmination of a lot of factors but, simply put, Trump outperformed his polls in some key areas while Clinton failed to turn her map into a reality.
      Over the course of the 2016 campaign, CNN analyzed a series of counties that could help explain the election. From these critical counties in Michigan, Colorado, Pennsylvania and other states, we see how Trump's win came together. We also see where Clinton lived up to expectations and where she fell short.
      So as the dust continues to settle around the Republican upset, here's how Trump and Clinton fared in 11 counties that helped decide the election.
      Data from Google Trends from the week following Election Day offers a glimpse at what residents of these counties searched following Trump's victory.
        Clinton won the home county of Flint, Michigan, but as with many places in this state, she severely underperformed compared to President Barack Obama in 2012. Her failure to turn out the vote heavily in this safely Democratic area left her vulnerable to Trump's unexpected performance elsewhere.

        Polls

        Top searches

        Clinton and Trump performed about as well in this Pittsburgh-led blue spot in Pennsylvania on election night as one might have expected. However, the story in Pennsylvania is less about the critical counties but the renewed energy in the state's rural areas.
        Trump's strength in rural Pennsylvania ultimately helped him carry the state.

        Polls

        Top searches

          Vigo County, the ultimate bellwether county, retains its bellwether status.
          All the way back to 1956, Vigo County has voted for the candidate that went on to win the election. 2016 was no exception.

          Poll

          Top searches

          Trending searches

          Wake County, a sign of a changing North Carolina with its increasingly educated and new residents, swung even harder for Democrats than it had the past few cycles. However, it wasn't enough to bring Clinton a southern victory.

            Poll

            Top searches

            Trending searches

            Most-searched issues in Wake County compared to the US

            We said Stark County was a swing county in a swing state -- and a sign of Trump's potential strength there. It very much was, pulling sharply for the now President-elect.
            Trump's margin of victory in Ohio ended up being relatively wide, especially considering the state backed Obama in 2008 and 2012.

            Poll

            Top searches

            Trending searches

            Most-searched issues in Stark County compared to the US

            Despite a last-minute star-studded concert in Cleveland, Clinton did not manage to come close to a win in Ohio. However, she did manage to do about as well as Obama in Cuyahoga County's vote breakdown.

            Poll

            Top searches

            Trending searches

            Most-searched issues in Cuyahoga County compared to the US

            One of the few predictions the polls bore out clearly was the DC area never swinging for Trump. Prince William County was rigidly blue and stopped Trump from notching another swing-state upset.

            Poll

            Top searches

            Trending searches

            Most-searched issues in Prince William County compared to the US

            This suburb of Detroit, like much of Colorado, went for Clinton about as strongly as it did for Obama. Despite the help from the Coors family, Trump didn't manage to outperform expectations there.

            Poll

            Top searches

            Trending searches

            Most-searched issues in Jefferson County compared to the US

            Colorado was one of the few battlegrounds that went about how polls expected. El Paso County, a GOP stronghold in this increasingly Democratic state, went out for Trump -- but it was still not enough for a Rocky Mountain surprise.

            Poll

            Top searches

            Trending searches

            Most-searched issues in El Paso County compared to the US

            Macomb County is the story of Michigan laid plain.
            Once the home of "Reagan Democrats," this county helped crush the GOP's chances in Michigan the past few cycles, even against one of its own: Mitt Romney. But Macomb County's wide swing for Trump underscored his surprising Rust Belt victories. It's early to say, but Macomb County is the kind of place that demonstrates exactly how Trump pulled off his out-of-left-field strength in this region.
            In our preview of this county, we called it a "moonshot" for the Trump campaign. Well, he managed to pull it off.

            Poll

            Top searches

            Trending searches

            Most-searched issues in Macomb County compared to the US

            As with Allegheny County, Clinton's strength in Pennsylvania was thought to come from the deep blue cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh as well as their outlying suburbs. Although Clinton did almost as well as Obama in this purple zone, Trump clearly brought Pennsylvania's rural areas out to vote in a way Republicans hadn't for years.

            Poll

            Top searches

            Trending searches

            Most-searched issues in Bucks County compared to the US