Says Donald Trump's presidential victory was "an electoral landslide."    

Reince Priebus on Monday, November 14th, 2016 in an interview

Despite losing popular vote, Donald Trump won in 'electoral landslide,' GOP's Reince Priebus says

Donald Trump (left), who lost to Hillary Clinton in the popular vote, nevertheless won the presidency in "an electoral landslide," according to Reince Priebus. (Getty Images)

The margin of Donald Trump’s presidential victory might be merely academic -- were it not for his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, and fellow Republicans such as House Speaker Paul Ryan declaring that Trump had won a mandate.

In his own way, Wisconsinite Reince Priebus, the president-elect’s newly named chief of staff, also hammered home the idea of a surpassing victory.

On Nov. 14, 2016, six days after the election, the Republican National Committee chairman repeated the same word on three network television shows: Landslide.

Priebus put it this way on ABC’s "Good Morning America":

"And look what happened on Tuesday. I mean, it was an electoral landslide and the American people agreed that Donald Trump’s vision for America is what this country has been waiting for."

There was considerable political earth shaking after Trump’s triumph over Democrat Hillary Clinton, even though she won the popular vote.

But was Trump’s win in the Electoral College, the result that mattered, a landslide?

How the Electoral College works

Voters cast ballots for candidates, but it is electors from each state who actually elect the president. That’s the way it’s always been in the United States. The states are assigned a number of electors based on population. The total number of electors is 538, with each state being assigned electors based on population.

Thus, you need half-plus-one -- the magic 270 votes -- to win in the Electoral College.

(Some Democrats want to scrap the Electoral College, but some Republicans have also backed election through popular vote. After Trump’s win, PolitiFact Georgia rated True a claim that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a major Trump supporter, had previously backed using the popular vote.)

Go here to see a 1-minute video on how the Electoral College works.

The Electoral College doesn’t sign, seal and deliver the final tallies until Dec. 19, 2016, a month and a day before Trump’s inauguration.

But the margin, according to the Associated Press, is Trump 290 and Clinton 232, with Michigan’s 16 electoral votes still not officially determined. Trump holds a lead in Michigan, however, and is expected to win the state. So, giving him the benefit of the doubt, the electoral votes would be:

Trump: 306

Clinton: 232

Does that constitute a landslide?

Some really big landslides

Landslide, of course, is not technically defined. When we asked for information to back Priebus’ claim, the Republican National Committee merely recited the electoral figures and repeated that it was a landslide.

Countering Priebus, the Wisconsin Democratic Party pointed out that six times since 1952 alone, the winning candidate won substantially more electoral votes than Trump:


Election year

Electoral votes won

Ronald Reagan (R)






Richard Nixon (R)



Lyndon Johnson (D)



Dwight Eisenhower (R)






Democrat Barack Obama’s totals, by the way, were 332 in 2012 and 365 in 2008. These totals, too, are more than Trump.

Still, just because some candidates won by larger margins doesn’t necessarily mean Trump didn’t win in a landslide.

So, we consulted 10 experts.

Other views

One said it was close to a landslide, but none said Trump had crossed the threshold.

Costas Panagopoulos, director of the Center for Electoral Politics and Democracy at Fordham University, said Trump’s winning 57 percent of the Electoral College vote makes it "pretty close" to a landslide. He said 60 percent is generally considered to be a landslide, at least when it comes to the popular vote.

But the others all said Trump fell short.

Taegan Goddard, founder of Political Wire, said the threshold should be 400 electoral votes. He said that was a figure often cited, prior to the election, when there were predictions of a Clinton landslide.

Alex Keyssar, a professor of history and social policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, went much lower -- 330 -- though still above what Trump has earned. Keyssar, former chairman of the Social Science Research Council's National Research Commission on Voting and Elections, acknowledged the figure is "pure impression."

Political scientist Barry Burden, director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the Trump margin comes up short in another way. From 1952 to 2012, the winning candidate got an average of 73 percent of the electoral votes, well above Trump’s 57 percent.

"Losing the popular vote also takes the shine off any Electoral College victory," Burden added, a point echoed by Herb Asher, a political science professor emeritus at Ohio State University.

Also voting no on landslide were John Woolley, a University of California, Santa Barbara political science professor and co-founder of the American Presidency Project; and Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. Sabato also runs Sabato’s Crystal Ball, an election analysis website.

"Calling a 306 electoral-vote victory a ‘landslide’ is ridiculous," Sabato told us. "Trump’s Electoral College majority is actually similar to John F. Kennedy’s 303 in 1960 and Jimmy Carter’s 297 in 1976. Has either of those victories ever been called a landslide? Of course not — and JFK and Carter actually won the popular vote narrowly."

Added Boston University history professor Bruce Schulman : "To say that Trump won by a landslide, then Obama won by even bigger landslides."

Indeed, the narrower of Obama’s two wins -- in 2012 with 332 electoral votes -- was described at the time as not being a landslide by The Atlantic, Politico, conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg, Fox News’ Brit Hume and others.

Our rating

Priebus said Trump’s win was "an electoral landslide."

But aside from the fact Trump lost the popular vote, his margin in the Electoral College isn’t all that high, either. None of the 10 experts we contacted said Trump’s win crosses that threshold.

We rate Priebus’ claim False.

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Says Donald Trump's presidential victory was "an electoral landslide."
In an interview
Monday, November 14, 2016