White working-class voters flipped Wisconsin red

KENOSHA, Wis. -- A Chrysler engine plant used to stand on a now-empty lot in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Six years ago it was shut down, and today it is a barren field.

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A Chrysler plant stood on this Kenosha, Wisconsin lot

CBS News

At a nearby bar, Jamie Sabena said plant workers used to come there in droves. Hoping for a return to the good old days, she voted for Mr. Trump.

“I hope we can get some type of factory work back here in Kenosha,” Sabena said. And she thinks Trump can do that.

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Jamie Sabena

CBS News

“He’s an awesome businessman he’s made everything work,” she said.

In 2012, President Obama won Kenosha County by 12 points. This time, Trump eked out a victory by a fraction of a point.

It’s a pattern seen in rural areas and small cities and towns across Wisconsin. Trump won non-college educated white voters by 28 points. Four years ago, Mitt Romney won them by only eight points.

Pollster Charles Franklin of Marquette University Law School has been keeping track of Wisconsin voting patterns for years.

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Charles Franklin

CBS News

When asked why Trump won, he said “I think fundamentally he broke through with people that Republicans had not managed to win or mobilize enough in previous elections.”

Franklin said another big factor in Trump’s surprising Wisconsin victory is that many Democratic voters simply stayed home.

In Milwaukee County, Clinton got almost 50,000 fewer votes than Obama did in 2012.

“The Clinton campaign was supposed to be great at field operations and get out the vote efforts. They weren’t able to pull that out,” Franklin said.

He also agreed that lack of enthusiasm was part of the issue.

  • Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.