I accept—reluctantly—that President Obama won reelection. What I can’t figure out is how.
Some pundits blame (or credit) Sandy; others credit (or blame) negative advertising. But that’s all conjecture and ass-covering. If I told you, however, that President Obama would lose more than 10 million votes from his 2008 results—finishing this time with fewer votes than John McCain had last time—wouldn’t you have told me that he had lost?
Similarly, I would have guaranteed that Mitt Romney would retain every McCain voter, and added to that tally. Yet he finished with three and a half million fewer votes than McCain.
So when the pundits tell you the election was about turnout, they’re only half right. It wasn’t about Obama’s turnout, it was about Mitt’s lack thereof.
So, what happened? The population of our country has grown steadily, yet the last time so few people voted for president was 2000.
James Taranto points out one clue:
Americans just re-elected Barack Obama but also gave Republicans an only minimally diminished House majority, thereby ratifying a status quo that hardly anyone finds satisfactory. The answer is that as almost all of the big swing states–North Carolina is the lone exception, with Florida still too close to call–went Democratic in the presidential race, they sent GOP majorities to Congress.
Here’s how the new House delegation breaks down for each swing state with 9 or more electoral votes, with Republicans counted first: Colorado 4-3, Florida 17-9 (with 1 yet uncalled), Michigan 9-5, North Carolina 9-3 (1 uncalled), Ohio 12-4, Pennsylvania 13-5, Virginia 8-3, Wisconsin 5-3.
Add it up, assuming Democrats hold their leads in the uncalled races (including for Florida’s 29 electoral votes), and Obama beat Romney in these eight states 115-15, while Republican House candidates beat Democratic ones 77-37. That’s enough to account for both Obama’s margin of victory and, in all likelihood, the Republican margin in the House.
[I]f you look at the maps of the other swing states, most of the districts look reasonably drawn. What you see is similar to those old maps showing the 2000 presidential results by county: little islands of blue in vast seas of red. Which is to say that most swing-state House Democrats come from big cities, while most suburban and rural swing-state districts elect Republicans.
Cities, of course, tend to have very concentrated populations of blacks, Hispanics, unmarried women and other components of the “emerging Democratic majority.” Suburban and rural districts are more politically diverse, meaning they are not as Republican as the urban districts are Democratic. They’re Republican enough to elect GOP House members, but not enough, at least this year, to outnumber the Democrats statewide.
Obama’s victory obviously vindicates his strategy, about which we were skeptical in July, of making calculated appeals to the fear or self-interest of these population subgroups, from the “war on women” nonsense to the overhyped quasi-amnesty for certain illegal aliens.
This year alone Obama made two cynical (to me) overtures to demographic groups: his “evolution” on gay marriage, and his fiat granting amnesty to certain illegal aliens. Even someone who supports these moves has to allow that they were made for purely political reasons. (Else why not make them earlier?) The “war on women”, the “Julia” video, and all the rest—they were calculated to appeal to his base and his base alone, and on that basis they succeeded. He lost ten million voters, but he held on to the cities where his base lives.
But those ten million voters didn’t vote for Mitt. They, and another four and a half million voters (and a few more, given population growth), stayed home. I still don’t know why.
In crunching the numbers, Allahpundit cites this observation by John Podhoretz:
As I write, Mitt Romney has 57.4 million votes. John McCain ended up with 59.9 million. It’s a little noticed fact that in two weeks following every presidential election, votes continue to be reported…by the millions. As I recall, Barack Obama got something like four million more votes in the weeks after election day, while John McCain got two or three million. It’s likely that by Thanksgiving, the final vote tally will show Romney very close to or even slightly exceeding McCain’s total.
That may explain our confusion, Judi (who wonders about this in the comments).