Joe Biden's win in Kent County shouldn't come as a surprise

Joe Biden
Posted at 11:17 PM, Nov 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-06 02:25:44-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Former Vice President Joe Biden is the projected winner in Michigan and on his path to victory he managed to flip battleground Kent County.

Back in 2016, President Donald Trump won Kent County by a 3% margin over Hillary Clinton, in his path to winning Michigan and the nomination.

This year we saw a 30,000-vote flip. Joe Biden received nearly 50,000 more votes than Hillary Clinton did.

“I think it will change this year. I think that Biden will take Kent County, you can put it on record,” Biden Voter Nancy Cook told FOX 17.

It turns out Nancy Cook got it right when we asked her who she thought would win Kent County as part of our reporting on the importance of the area in the scope of the general election.

That importance was highlighted by President Trump’s decision to once again finish his campaign in Grand Rapids.

Though as votes were tallied just two days after that rally, it was former VP Joe Biden who got the majority.

“It's a continuation of a long-term trend, if you see it, it goes up and down a little bit by election cycle, but it's a long-term trend,” Calvin University Political Science Professor Dr. Doug Koopman said.

Koopman says Kent County in the long-term is trending bluer.

A win for Gretchen Whitmer back in the 2018 gubernatorial race was an indicator of what could come.

This year, local congressional candidates on both sides had internal polling that showed leads for Biden in the area down the stretch.

“Partly because of the changing sort of impression of the Republican Party and the Democratic Party nationwide but also a lot of local factors. The growing parts of Kent County, East Grand Rapids is city, the attraction of young people to downtown Grand Rapids really brings more progressive element,” Koopman explained.

High voter turnout also typically leads to Democrats performing better, Kent County had a 72% clip in 2020.

But part of Trump’s loss can also be put on his perceived favorability among local voters, he under-performed in some areas of the county compared to 2016.

“In a lot of the other baseline races in Kent County, the Republicans still took the majority like some of the countywide seats. It's so much depends on who the candidate is and I don't think people oppose conservatism so much but I do think they look for a different kind of a style of a candidate,” Koopman said.

An example of that could be Republican John James, who lost his Senate race but beat Democratic Incumbent Sen. Gary Peters in Kent County by nearly 3,000 votes.

“Kent County voters split their tickets more frequently than people in a lot of places. Many people like to say well I'm going to vote, generally party line but there's this one person on the other side I'm going to vote for. I think for a lot of voters who voted mostly Democratic this time, John James was that person,” Koopman added.

And while it is trending bluer, Kent County will likely remain a swing county in the short-term.

“Kent Count is clearly a toss-up county for sure. It does tend to trend a little bit for the Democrats over the longer view, but it’s not so much the people are changing, it's the parties at the national level,” Koopman said.