Obama’s Great win? Not so Great, Really


By: Warner Todd Huston

The near orgasmic reaction in the media to Barack Obama’s win on Election-day is universal. His is being hailed as a mandate, a game changing win, a landslide. But, in reality, Obama’s “wind” was not as “righteous” as he thought, it was not a landslide at all. In fact, Obama’s isn’t as strong a win as Ronald Reagan’s or Nixon’s and it didn’t bring the mandate for Obama that the media is attempting to claim it did. Neither did Obama bring overwhelming numbers to the polls as everyone imagined, for that matter. In the end, the complete realignment for the Democrats did not occur. All Obama’s win revealed is that the American electorate is still closely divided and it also that the GOP has one more chance to make a come back.

Not a Landslide

Reagan won a landslide victory in 1980. Obama did not in 2008. Reagan beat incumbent Jimmy Carter with nearly 51% to Carter’s 41% of the vote in November of 1980. He won 489 to Carter’s 49 Electoral College votes. Now that is what a landslide looks like.

Obama’s victory is solid, yes, but not of Reagan’s caliber. Obama got 52% of the vote to McCain’s 46% and garnered 349 Electoral Votes to McCain’s 163. But, while strong, Obama did not do better than George H. W. Bush or either Reagan campaign. Obama also came nowhere near Nixon’s landslide win of 1972.

Obama did much better than Bill Clinton and both of G. W. Bush’s campaigns, for sure. But, with all the hype attached to Obama, with all the claims that he was bringing massive new numbers of voters to the table, to only beat McCain by 6% does not seem quite as amazing as Reagan’s win of 10% over Carter. Nor was his Electoral Count better than Reagan’s, or Bush the elder’s, or Nixon’s. McCain, it must be recognized, almost got 50% of the vote here.

Congress, Not As Great As Expected

The Democratic Party was prepared for a massive influx of new members of Congress this time around, too. What with one of the most unpopular administrations of recent memory riding off into the sunset and the wunderkind Obama at the lead, they thought it was a lock. But that lock was not as great as they imagined. While gaining seats in both Houses of Congress they still only got 5 Senate seats and 17 House seats increasing their numbers yet finding the Senate split more or less evenly (strictly by the numbers, no voting inclination).

Vote Turnout Not a Record

The highest turn out of voters was the 1960 race between JFK and Nixon. 63.8 percent of registered voters turned out to vote that year. While Obama saw a healthy 62.5 percent turnout, still it was also lower than that of 1964. Obama’s turn out did not set the highest total record.

One area where Obama did better than any president ever was in the youth vote. For the first time since 1972 the 18 to 29 demographic came out to vote in droves. About 4 million new voters in this age group cast their ballots for the first time. It was easy to doubt that this would happen since no other presidential election has stirred so many young people before Obama but he did it nonetheless.

Final Analysis

Obama did not realign the electorate as the Democrats had hoped, however. He did make great gains, but it was not a game-changing race as things stand now. He has four years to change that fact. If he succeeds he may well be able to realign this country for the Democrats, but at this time he merely highlighted the close split between Democrat and Republican while showing a lean left. He only won by bringing new voters to the polls in just large enough numbers to win out.

If Obama had not excited the youth vote and the African American vote the way he did he would not have won. Though he would only barely have lost, he would not have won.

So, Republicans have four years to hold Obama back. If they can prove their mettle, seem less obstructionist and more principled in their opposition and can successfully highlight Obma’s failures they can stave off a realignment in 2012.

And, of course, even more depends on Obama himself. If he is a credible and even moderately successful president these next four years he can likely keep the job another four and then in 2012 he will likely lead the realignment that the Democrats had hoped for this time around.

The GOP has a final chance to ward off total defeat, but only just.

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