Takeaways from the Votemaster

Election Results

President Barack Obama was re-elected president with a strong majority in the Electoral College, although not quite as big as in 2008. If he wins Florida, where he is currently leading but where the final results are not in—the vote counters got tired and went to bed instead of finishing the job last night—he will have won every state this year that he won in 2008 except Indiana and North Carolina. Those two are deeply red states that Republicans nearly always win. They simply have reverted to the norm (although North Carolina was close: Romney's margin was only three points). Noteworthy is that Obama appears to have won all the swing states except North Carolina. If Florida stays blue, Obama will have 332 electoral votes (versus. 365 in 2008). If Florida becomes red in the end, Obama will still have hit 300 electoral votes, with a total of 303. Either way, a solid victory. None of the media are reporting anything about Nebraska's Second Congressional District, which Obama won last time, so let us assume Romney won all five of Nebraska's electoral votes.

All the talk about one candidate winning the Electoral College and the other winning the popular vote was off base. Obama won the popular vote handily, with a margin of about 2.5 million votes, although the exact total is not yet known. This represents a percentage of 50.1 to Romney's 48.4. If it holds, Obama will have won by 1.7 percent, slightly more than the average the national polls were predicting. In 2008, Obama got 53 percent of the popular vote, so Obama's victory was smaller this time. That is not entirely surprising, since Obama had far more money than John McCain did in 2008, but in 2012 the Romney campaign plus various billionaire-funded super PACs had more money than Obama. Money matters, but it is not everything.


Here are some of our takeaways, in no particular order.

  • It's not just the economy, stupid. It's the whole package.
  • Abandoning large constituencies, like women, Latinos, and young voters is not a winning formula.
  • The partisan identification in 2008 was not a freak accident. There are more Democrats than Republicans.
  • The candidate matters: On paper, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney were great, but the real men weren't.
  • Nominating a sneering plutocrat who likes firing people and writes off half the country is not a wise move.
  • If you can't release your tax returns because they are full of poison, don't run for president.
  • There aren't enough billionaires to buy the election.
  • Don't talk about gay marriage unless you are supporting it.
  • Above all, don't talk about rape except maybe if you are proposing to castrate rapists.

Whither the Republican Party?

Whenever a party loses an election big time, there is a lot of wailing and the pulling of hair. Although the popular vote was close, the Republicans lost nearly all the swing states, including New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico. They probably lost Florida, and almost lost North Carolina. It is true that some of the races were close, but in politics, a win is a win and a loss is a loss. With the loss of Virginia and a close call in North Carolina, the party's base has shrunk to the Deep South (except for Florida) and big, empty states in the Great Plains and Mountain West where the buffalo once roamed but the electoral votes never did and still don't.

As we mentioned many times this year, the traditionally blue states—the ones Democrats have won five times in a row—are worth 242 electoral votes. Obama won every one of them. None were even close. Not even Wisconsin, where Obama had a seven-point margin. Romney made a last-ditch effort to win Pennsylvania but came up short. The blue team won by five points. So next time around, we can talk about the 242 electoral votes that the Democrats have won six times in a row. Rick Santorum or Marco Rubio isn't going to make a dent here, probably not Paul Ryan, either. Chris Christie might.

But something new has been added to the mix. New Mexico is now dark blue, so make that 247. Obama also won Nevada, Iowa, and New Hampshire by margins of six, five, and five points, respectively. If they get added to the Democratic base, it becomes 263. If the Democrats have a floor of 263 electoral votes in 2016, the Republicans have to win all of Colorado, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida. All of them. Moving further to the right, as seems entirely possible, is probably not the ticket to win these big, diverse swing states.

Despite the fact that it is unmentionable, we are going to mention the 800-pound gorilla wandering around the polling place: race. There are certainly white voters in Virginia, North Carolina, and Northern Florida who didn't vote for Obama due to his color but are otherwise not fundamentally opposed to a Democrat. All of the 2016 likely Democratic nominees—Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Andrew Cuomo, and Martin O'Malley—are lily white. Even Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren (who will be under pressure from the left to audition for the role of Howard Dean), is 31/32 white. The racist voters might well vote for a Democrat in 2016, unless the nominee is a woman, which opens up a different can of worms.

Demographically, the Republican Party's base is angry, old white men. That is no formula for future victories. Democrats did well with women, Latinos, and young people. Unless the Republicans stop trying to repeal both Roe v. Wade and Griswold v. Connecticut, they are not going to improve their standing with women. If Obama makes a big effort at passing immigration reform and either gets it or has it go down on a party-line vote in the House, the Republicans can write off Latinos for a generation. As to young people, political identities are set early. Twenty-somethings who have now voted for the Democrats twice aren't going to be easy to peel away unless the Republicans can pull an elephant out of the hat.

The Blame Game Starts Today

Republicans will begin the Great Scapegoat Hunt today. It is like pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey except it uses an elephant instead of a donkey and a six-inch nail instead of a pin, and you have to drive it all the way in. Here is the Tea Party version, and here is what Karl Rove is thinking.

How Did We Do?

Yesterday, we predicted Obama would win 303 electoral votes. He won either 303 or 332, depending how Florida ultimately turns out. The map showed North Carolina as a tie (although the blog said Romney would carry it, which he narrowly did). Other than these two states, we called all the winners correctly, for a score of either 48 of 50, 49 of 50, or 48 of 49, depending on how you want to score (or not score) North Carolina. All the talk from the Republicans about how skewed the polls were turned out to be—in the now-famous word of Joe Biden—malarkey. More about how individual pollsters did later this week.

About Last Night

It looks like we're too popular for our own good. Up until yesterday, this site had been getting about a quarter of a million visits a day and had been handling that easily with one server, which was running at about 5 percent of capacity. To prepare for election night, a second server was added, and all seemed fine. To make a long story short, there were two million visits yesterday, and the servers couldn't handle the load. They were pumping out 200 million bits per second, but that wasn't enough capacity. It was also impossible to update the blog and map because it was impossible to log in. Eventually, I started to do the updates on a different server, but the lines were so clogged that it was impossible to transfer the updated map and other files to the servers. The result was not a very good election night experience, with slow and erratic service. After the networks declared Obama the winner, people started going to bed, and we were able to resume normal operation. Our apologies for the mess.

There is much more to say. But not today. Come back tomorrow for more thoughts.

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