President Trump speaks on the phone with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Jan. 28. (Alex Brandon/AP)
It’s both a truism and a running joke that President Trump is unusually obsessed with the results of the 2016 election. He generally mentions the election about halfway through any given interview. Most memorably, he interrupted an interview with Reuters in April to pass out maps of the results.
“Here, you can take that, that’s the final map of the numbers,” he said. “It’s pretty good, right? The red is obviously us.”
And yet, despite that intense focus on what happened last year, Trump often gets pretty obvious specifics wrong. How many electoral votes he won. Which states. What demographic groups. Sometimes, it’s clear that Trump’s presentations of the results are just Trump-style exaggerations. Sometimes, it’s not clear what’s going on.
On Thursday, The Post published the transcripts of two calls between Trump and the leaders of Mexico and Australia in January. In those calls, he makes a number of claims that are simply untrue — and often in baffling ways.
Trump’s call with the president of Mexico begins with Enrique Peña Nieto raising — intentionally or not — a sore subject. Speaking about Trump’s repeated claim that Mexico would fund the construction of a wall on the southern U.S. border, Peña Nieto makes clear that he won’t and that he understands why Trump keeps bringing it up: to mollify his base.
“I understand, Mr. President, the small political margin that you have now in terms of everything you said that you established throughout your campaign,” Peña Nieto said. “But I would also like to make you understand, President Trump, the lack of margin I have as President of Mexico to accept this situation.”
In short order, Trump raises the results of the November election, framing them in a more favorable light.
In the latest election, I won with a large percentage of Hispanic voters. … [O]verall generally, I had well over 30 percent and everyone was shocked to see this. I understand the community and they understand me, and I have a great respect for the Mexican people.
Exit polling suggests that Trump earned 28 percent of the Hispanic vote, which would be a “large percentage” only relative to prior Republican presidents.
But it isn’t. Trump did about as well as Mitt Romney, which, given Trump’s rhetoric, was indeed a surprise. But it wasn’t a large percentage. Setting aside 1992 and 1996, when Ross Perot pulled a large percentage from both the Republican and Democratic candidates, Trump and Romney were the worst-performing Republicans in terms of the Hispanic vote since Gerald Ford.
That’s exit polling, which has repeatedly been criticized for inaccuracy. An outside analysis of the Hispanic vote estimated that Trump probably won something more like 18 percent of the vote.
I do not know if you heard, but with Cuba, I had 84 percent, with the Cuban-American vote.
Mexico not being Cuba, it’s not clear why this is meant to appeal to Peña Nieto. But, that said, the figure is wrong.
Cuban Americans tend to lean more heavily Republican than Hispanics on the whole, largely a function of older members of that community voting more loyally with the party. The Pew Research Center estimates that about 54 percent of Cuban Americans in Florida — where three-quarters of the country’s Cuban Americans live — backed Trump. Even if 100 percent of the other 25 percent of the population living elsewhere supported him, he’s not hitting 84 percent.
We lost a lot of factories in Ohio and Michigan and I won these states — some of these states have not been won in 38 years by a Republican and I won them very easily.
There are no states that hadn’t been won in 38 years by a Republican, since presidential elections happen every four years and 38 is not divisible by four. Trump appears to be referring to Rust Belt states that he was not expected to win but did: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin.
Ohio voted Republican in 2004. Michigan voted Republican in 1988 — but Trump didn’t win it “very easily,” squeaking by with an 11,000-vote margin. Pennsylvania is the same: last won in 1988 and won this year by 43,000 votes. Wisconsin was last won by Republicans in 1984; Trump won it by 23,000.
Those states came up in the context of Trump’s call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, too. Most of that call centered around Trump’s reticence to accept Middle Eastern refugees from Australia under an agreement reached with Barack Obama. But, inevitably, the election came up.
Look, I do not know how you got them to sign a deal like this, but that is how they lost the election. They said I had no way to 270 and I got 306.
Very few pundits said Trump had “no way” to securing 270 electoral votes. Most said the odds were low — and Trump’s narrow victory in the states mentioned above reinforced that this was the case.
That said, Trump didn’t end up getting 306 electoral votes. Thanks to two Trump electors who voted for other candidates, he ended up with 304.
But, back to the Peña Nieto call.
I won New Hampshire because New Hampshire is a drug-infested den.
Trump lost New Hampshire in the general election by 2,700 votes.
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