That Hillary Clinton did win the popular vote should be of concern to Republicans, Democrats having won six of the last seven presidential elections with a plurality of the votes cast.
But, as David French points out, we really can’t say who would have won the popular vote if the popular vote settled the elections. In this as in all other presidential elections, the goal of each side was to win states. If the goal were to win the popular vote, both campaigns would have been run completely differently.
From David French, Hillary Clinton’s Popular Vote Victory Is Meaningless | National Review:
Here’s a fact: We don’t know who would have won the 2016 (or 2000) presidential races if the president was elected by popular vote because the race would have been run completely differently. Forget the millions of dollars spent squeezing a few-thousand votes out of New Hampshire precincts. Forget the micro-targeting of Iowa voters. Who really cares how Hamilton County, Ohio, turnout changed from 2012? After all, that’s just noise in the great race to, say, 65 million or 70 million votes.
Protesters and petition-signers need to understand that Donald Trump won under the only rules that mattered. Vote-rich secure red states like Texas would be blanketed with get out the vote efforts. The solid-red South, where states are individually small players in the Electoral College but collectively represent tens of millions of voters, would become ground zero for GOP turnout. Safe blue states such as California and New York would be the scene of a frenzy of activity, with each Democratic precinct given the same care and attention as the most hotly contested Florida county circa 2000.
If possible, the political rhetoric would grow even more heated. Who cares if you can switch the votes of 50,000 Obama Democrats in Pennsylvania if you can get 150,000 more Tennessee conservatives to the polls? What’s the point in winning over New Hampshire moderates if you can swamp Brooklyn precincts with angry hipsters? Presidential temperaments and policies are often driven by the need to gain and maintain small majorities in the swing states. Remove that incentive, and the world would change substantially — for the better in some ways and for the worse in others.
Democrats declaring Hillary’s superiority aren’t unlike sports fans who stubbornly cling to the notion that their team would win if only the rules were just a little bit different. “If we could hand-check Steph Curry, he wouldn’t have hit eight threes.” “If we could get more physical with the wide receivers, Tom Brady wouldn’t throw for 380 yards and four touchdowns.” It’s an interesting argument, but who ultimately cares? Those aren’t the rules.