VAR measures the strength of a political candidate relative to a typical candidate from their party by comparing the percentage of the candidate’s vote with the party’s Baseline. Baseline is the trimmed mean of each party’s performance in partisan, contested statewide elections over the four most recent general election cycles.
In 2016, Trump carried Michigan with 47.5 percent of the vote. But the 2016 Republican Baseline for Michigan was 48.9 percent, meaning he underperformed a typical GOP candidate, with a -1.4 VAR. Trump carried Wisconsin with 47.2 percent, but he had a -3.4 VAR because the GOP Baseline for Wisconsin was 50.6 percent. Pennsylvania was the only of the three states Trump flipped where he overperformed: Trump had a +1.4 VAR because the GOP Baseline was 46.8 percent, and he carried the Keystone State with 48.2 percent.