I think there's a lot of potential reasons. A lot of ones that people cite aren't really relevant, like her "not connecting with voter". She won the popular vote so that's not really an issue.
You need to look at factors which lead to her narrow loss in the three rust belt states which gave Trump victory. Without Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania then Trump wouldn't win. Or without Florida (which he also narrowly won) and any two of those other states he would have lost.
So one factor may, paradoxically, be Clinton's strength, or at least, Trump's weakness. There seem to be a number of people on the left who hated Trump but were not enthusiastic about Clinton, who many viewed as too centrist, despite running on the most liberal platform in decades. Some of these people felt that it was okay to not vote for Clinton because they assumed there was no way Trump could win. This assumption cost Clinton votes and could have made a crucial difference in the swing states which she narrowly lost.
Voter suppression may have played a role too. There's evidence that in Wisconsin at least large numbers of African American voters were not able to cast ballots in 2016 because of voter ID and other voter suppression laws. In a state which she lost by only about 20,000 votes, that may have made a difference. It may have also made a difference in Florida, where felon disfranchisement laws kept about 1 in 10 Floridians from voting, with a heavier impact on black and Hispanic voters. Trump won Florida by just over 1% which could have been helped by felon disfranchisement.
Of course, the Clinton campaign was also assailed throughout the general election by a multi million dollar Russian influence campaign. This included efforts to divide Democrats between Clinton and Sanders supporters. These efforts were largely unsuccessful as over 90% of Sanders voters in the primary voted for Clinton in the general. But given the extremely slim margins that Trump won by any defection may have hurt Clinton. The Russians also worked to try and muddy the news cycles in Trump's favor. For instance they released one of their big batches of emails just thrity minutes after the Washington Post broke a story about Donald Trump bragging on tape about committing sexual assault.
But in some ways all of this may be beside the point. That's because Clinton seemed to survive it all. In the final weeks of the campaign she was sitting on a 5-6 point lead in national polling. I know that conservatives like to reject polling data but that's a huge mistake. That's because the polls in 2016 were pretty accurate on a national level. The final batch of them were very close to what the actual vote was in terms of the popular vote. What they got wrong, in part because they're not designed to assess it, is the electoral college split.
So, despite the Russians, and despite her gaffes, and despite all the other stuff, Clinton was coasting a solid win. Given how manifestly unfit Trump was to hold any office, and given how many gaffes he had made, one could argue that this gap should have been much higher, but she was still going to win easily. The thing that changed this FBI Director James Comey's decision to break FBI rules and inform Congress that they were reopening the investigation into Hillary Clintons emails. This had been prompted by emails discovered weeks earlier on a computer owned by Clinton's assistant Huma Abedin. The letter was sent on Octobr 28th, just a week and a half before the election. As the election analysis and polling site 538 explains, this letter cost Clinton the election. Before the letter, Clinton had a 5-6 point lead on Trump nationally. After it her poll numbers tanked. It reminded people of why they didn't like Clinton: her evasiveness, and propensity to scandal. It seemed like maybe she was hiding something after all. The emails turned out to be nothing at all. They were just copies of ones the FBI had already reviewed and had been automatically forwarded to Abedins computer. To this day there's a real question of why the FBI field office in New York, which was investigating the laptop in an unrelated crime, didn't perform an incredibly simple search to determine this but instead sat on the information for weeks until its release would be most beneficial for Trump. But whatever the reality of the emails the damage was done. Trump briefly pulled even with Clinton, the first time he had done so throughout the whole election. Her poll numbers rapidly began climbing again in the final week, reaching a 2 point lead in national polls. That's about where she finished in the popular vote. This was enough for Trump to squeak out one of the narrowest wins in presidential history.
Without that letter, Clinton almost certainly would have won. Nothing else tanked her numbers like that. All the other things which people point to, including her allegedly poor campaign, didn't impact them. She was still on track to win by 5 points. And it's pretty unlikely that Trump, who won Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania by well less than 1% of the vote, would have still won those states is Clinton was doing 4 points better nationally. There's just no way that all the people who defected from Clinton over the letter were in blue states which she ended up winning or in red states where she had no chance of victory. Remember that Trump won Michigan, for instance, by only about 10,000 votes. less than one quarter of one percent of all votes cast in the state. Collectively, in the three Rust Belt states which mattered most he only beat Clinton by a little over 80,000 votes. If she were doing 3-4 points better nationally it's almost certain she would have picked up 80,000 votes in those states, and thus the presidency.
· 6 months ago