The polls didn’t lie in Missouri. Donald Trump took the state and its 10 electoral votes in a landslide win, according to calls made by multiple national news organizations.
Missouri used to be considered a battleground state in the Electoral College, historically voting for the winning candidate. But that trend stopped with President Barack Obama, who lost there in a close contest in 2008 and by a wider margin in 2012.
Trump led by double digits in the polls in the weeks before the election, and expectedly, Hillary Clinton’s campaign didn’t spend much time in Missouri this election cycle — despite Clinton’s husband winning the state in the 1990s.
Missouri’s evolution into a red state, voting for Sen. John McCain and Gov. Mitt Romney, was largely attributed to a growth in the suburban white evangelical voting population in 2008 and 2012. Billed as “values voters,” these white evangelical Republicans made up around 37 percent of the electorate in 2012, most of whom voted for Romney.
Despite Trump’s well-documented immoral and largely areligious history, white evangelicals decided to stick with the Republican ticket. In fact, they weren’t turned off by Trump at all: Even the release of a hot mic tape that revealed Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women didn’t have much of an impact on the polls in Missouri.
As my colleague Dara Lind wrote writes, evangelicals are “among Donald Trump’s most stalwart defenders”:
It’s not that Trump hasn’t bothered to do anything to win over religious conservatives. On their key issue — abortion — Trump has at least genuflected in their direction. He’s used what he imagines to be pro-life rhetoric, and he’s promised to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices who’d overturn Roe v. Wade.
But so did John McCain and Mitt Romney — two candidates who never won the enthusiastic support Trump commands among the evangelical base. Trump's certainly no more sincere in his promises to appoint conservative justices than McCain and Romney were, but voters don't seem to care.
Trump’s win not only confirms Missouri’s relatively newfound red-state identity but also potentially reframes the “values voter” perception of the evangelical vote.