The Atlantic Politics Daily: Dirt Doesn’t Vote

Republicans wallop Democrats in rural areas and small towns; urban and suburban areas want nothing to do with the MAGA-aligned. Plus: the White House lawyer you should know.

Comments or questions? Send us an email anytime. Were you forwarded this email? Sign yourself up here.

We appreciate your continued support for our journalism.

Today in Politics

(Brian Snyder / Reuters)

Quick, picture a map of the 2016 presidential election. You may be thinking of an Electoral College map, with each state shaded red or blue.

Though President Donald Trump touts his Electoral-College win, that’s not his favorite way of visualizing his 2016 victory. He prefers a county-by-county map, which shows a mostly red country with pockets of blue. (Earlier this week, he tweeted out that map, captioned with “Try to Impeach This.” A framed version of the map has also been spotted in the West Wing.)

But as Ronald Brownstein writes, “despite Trump’s cartographic claims of political dominance, dirt doesn’t vote.”

Once you account for population and economic output, that map begins to look different. The president did win more than 2,600 counties, while Hillary Clinton carried fewer than 500. But Clinton won three million more votes in 2016—and her counties accounted for nearly two-thirds of the nation’s total economic output.

The maps—Trump’s preferred one and one that takes into account the above—tell the same story: Republicans are walloping Democrats in rural areas and small towns; urban and suburban areas want nothing to do with the MAGA-aligned.

That should scare both parties.

For Republicans, metro areas are quickly trending away from them, make it harder to win back the House of Representatives. In 2016, population density was a better predictor of how that community voted than its total population, income, racial diversity, or share of college grads.

For Democrats, rural losses make the challenge of winning the Senate and the Electoral College even tougher. Here’s one way of thinking about it: The population of Los Angeles County alone is larger than all but 9 states (that get two Senators each).

—Saahil Desai

What Else We’re Watching

(Scott Morgan / Reuters)

George Conway has a few words to say about President Donald Trump’s fitness for office: “No president in recent memory—and likely no president ever—has prompted more discussion about his mental stability and connection with reality.” He lays out his comprehensive argument here.

At a recent press conference with the Finnish president, Trump skirted around an odd word: jockstrap. Our resident linguist examines why the president, usually not one to self-censor, restrained himself when it came to this one odd word.

The U.S. government’s over-reliance on secrecy invites abuse, Mike Giglio reports: “[T]oo much national-security information—from the trivial to the politically inconvenient—gets labeled ‘confidential,’ ‘secret,’ or ‘top secret,’ meaning that only those with the corresponding government clearance can access it.” But one of the consequences of overclassification? Potential scandals escaping notice.

“China should start an investigation into the Bidens,” Trump said on the White House South Lawn today, “because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine.” David Graham parses.

Featured Read


Have you heard of Pat Cipollone? You’ll want to remember his name—he may be sticking around awhile.

Our White House reporters Elaina Plott and Peter Nicholas spoke with multiple current and former senior administration officials, from the Attorney General William Barr to senior advisor Jared Kushner for their profile of the White House lawyer:

In his 10 months in the administration, the 53-year-old Cipollone seems to have earned the president’s trust in a way that few aides have done. He is both discreet, and more to the point, clear in his admiration for the president. He is not the sort of lawyer who will refer to the president as “King Kong,” as his predecessor, Don McGahn, once did.

→ Read the rest

Our Reporters Are Also Reading

They’re Retired. They’re Insured. The Government Pays for It. And Trump Loves It. (Akilah Johnson, ProPublica)

Trump Ordered Ukraine Ambassador Removed After Complaints From Giuliani, Others (Rebecca Ballhaus, Michael C. Bender and Vivian Salama, The Wall Street Journal) (🔒Paywall)

An IRS whistle-blower’s Complaint Says He Heard At Least One Treasury Political Appointee May Have Interfered in an Audit of Trump or Pence (Jeff Stein, Tom Hamburger, and Josh Dawsey, The Washington Post) (🔒Paywall)

About us: The Atlantic’s politics newsletter is a daily effort from our politics desk. It’s written by our associate politics editor, Saahil Desai, and our politics fellow, Christian Paz. It’s edited by Shan Wang.

We have many other free email newsletters on a variety of other topics. Browse the full list.