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County to County: These five counties told the story of the 2020 election

WASHINGTON — Almost exactly a year ago today, NBC News chose five swing-state counties to help explain the presidential contest — which we called our “County to County Project.”

And now with almost all the votes counted in the election, these five counties definitely delivered.

Milwaukee County, Wis., told the story about how Joe Biden improved on Hillary Clinton’s performance in urban areas in the Midwest with sizable African-American populations.

In 2016, Clinton won Milwaukee Co. by 162,753 votes over Donald Trump, 65 percent to 28 percent. (Barack Obama had won it by 177,514 votes in 2012.)

In 2020, Biden won it by 182,896 votes, 69 percent to 29 percent. And that 20,000-vote increase for Biden from 2016 just happens to be his winning margin for the state.

Maricopa County, Ariz., told the story about how Biden won the cities and big suburbs in states Republicans had owned in previous presidential races.

In 2016, Trump won Maricopa — the Phoenix area — by 44,000 votes, 48 percent to 45 percent.

In 2020, Biden won the county by 45,000 votes, 50 percent to 48 percent, becoming the first Democratic presidential candidate in 72 years to win Maricopa.

Biden won Arizona by just more than 10,000 votes.

Miami-Dade, Fla., told the story about how Trump’s improved performance with Florida Latinos helped him win the Sunshine State.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the county by 290,000 votes over Trump, 63 percent to 34 percent.

In 2020, Biden netted just 85,000 votes in Miami-Dade, 53 percent to 46 percent — in a state Trump won by 372,000 votes.

Beaver County, Pa., told the story about how Trump continued to win rural counties in swing states, though the margin (in percentages) was smaller than it was four years ago.

In 2016, Trump won Beaver by 15,600 votes, 57 percent to 32 percent.

In 2020, he won it by 16,400 votes, 58 percent to 41 percent.

And finally, Kent County, Mich., told the story about how traditional Republican bastions — like Grand Rapids (Gerald Ford country) — broke for Biden.

Trump won Kent in 2016 (48 percent to 45 percent), but that was down from Mitt Romney’s winning performance in 2012 (53 percent to 45 percent).

In 2020, Biden won the county, 52 percent to 46 percent.

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