If you live in Texas, California, or New York, you probably don't spend a lot of time thinking about how your one vote could impact the outcome of the election. But if you live in a swing state, you probably think about it a lot — because, as the 2000 election demonstrates, sometimes every vote counts. So, what was the most important state in the 2016 election? It's hard to say, because so many battleground states didn't pan out the way pollsters and pundits expected them to.
Early in the night, it became evident that Hillary Clinton was going to lose many of the states she was expected or believed to win— namely Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, where she had small leads in the polls going into Election Day. She also lost some of the swing states, such as Florida, Ohio, and New Hampshire. Losing all of these states pushed her too far away from that elusive 270 mark.
But there was one state that was mentioned over and over and over again as Nov. 8 wound down: Michigan. Pre-election polls showed Clinton up by 4 percent in Michigan. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Clinton is losing Michigan by 16,236 votes.
There were clues before votes came in that Clinton's campaign had some anxiety about how Michigan would go. Speaking on Nov. 6 with NBC's Chuck Todd, Clinton's campaign manager, John Podesta, said, "We feel like we got a lead in Michigan. We want to hold on to it. We think we can do that." Podesta's slip of uncertainty ("we think") caused a few raised eyebrows, but most pundits still put Michigan firmly in Clinton's column. As of today, Podesta's hesitation looks warranted.
The other state that received plenty of attention was Florida. Because early voting showed the Hispanic vote to be way up, Clinton's team felt confident that the Sunshine State would go for Team Blue. But unlike in 2012 and 2008, Florida went Republican. With its haul of 29 electoral votes, FL was thought to be a must-win for Trump.
However, with his unexpected wins in Michigan and Wisconsin, Trump could have lost Florida and still racked up the necessary 270 electoral votes to become president. That is something no one predicted. As it goes with 2016, truth is stranger than fiction this year.