Trump's Luck

Consider two of the bigger nonpolitical state boundary questions of the 19th century: the fate of the Florida Panhandle and the “Toledo War.”

The Toledo War was a long dispute between Michigan and Ohio over a tiny strip of land along their border, which happens to include the city of Toledo. Ohio had the upper hand for one reason: It earned its statehood first, and therefore blocked Michigan’s petition — which included the strip. In the end, Congress proposed a deal: Michigan would relinquish its claim on the Toledo strip and, in exchange, would get the Upper Peninsula.

The Florida Panhandle and the Florida Peninsula were governed as separate regions — West and East Florida — under Spanish and British rule. They were effectively separated by hundreds of miles of treacherous swamp and forest.

Ultimately, West and East Florida were combined into one state. This was mainly coincidental: Alabama earned statehood before the Florida territory was annexed. West Florida repeatedly tried to join Alabama, starting as soon as the state was annexed and lasting all the way past the Civil War. Many of these efforts — which included referendums, congressional petitions and direct negotiations between Florida and Alabama — nearly succeeded. But they ultimately did not.

If these minor border issues had gone differently, Mrs. Clinton would probably be president. The Florida Panhandle is heavily Republican: Without it, the rest of Florida votes Democratic. Both halves of the Toledo War worked out poorly for Mrs. Clinton. Not only would she have won Michigan with Toledo, but she would have also won Michigan without the Upper Peninsula: Only the full trade gives Mr. Trump a narrow win.
- Nate Cohn, Why Trump Had an Edge in the Electoral College, NYT, DEC. 19, 2016

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