A friend of mine noted that the numbers do not indicate that President Obama won by a large margin. I looked into this and found that this was true. Here are the numbers from all seven elections since 1988. All the data is from uselectionatlas.org. Some sites have slightly different numbers on 2012 election.
1988-George H.W. Bush wins with +315 electoral votes and +7,077,121 popular votes.
1992-Bill Clinton wins with +202 electoral votes and +5,805,256 popular votes. Ross Perot took 18.9% of the popular vote that year.
1996-Bill Clinton wins again with +220 electoral votes and +8,201,370 popular votes.
2000-George W. Bush wins with +5 electoral votes and -543,816 popular votes.
2004-George W. Bush wins with +35 electoral votes and +3,012,171 popular votes.
2008-Barack Obama wins with +192 electoral votes and +9,549,105 popular votes.
2012-Barack Obama wins with +126 electoral votes and +2,947,720 popular votes.
Several things stick out as one looks at this election versus the other post Ronald Reagan elections. President Obama got the least electoral votes of any Democrat since Reagan and he also won by the smallest margin of popular votes. Both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush improved their numbers when they were reelected. President Obama did not. President Obama received over 9 million less votes than he received in 2008. All the numbers indicate that President Obama lost ground over the last four years and this win was not numerically impressive. So why does it feel so impressive? What happened on Tuesday that caused most political conservatives to feel as if they had got kicked in the gut?
Here is my shot at why conservatives think they got beat soundly despite the numbers being close. I am no political expert. So take this with a grain of salt.
1. In the 2010 mid-term elections the conservatives cleaned up. The expectation was that they would do this again. By my last count the Republicans lost two seats in the Senate and two in the House. When you expect to win by a lot and you lose by a little it can feel like you lost by a lot.
2. President Obama’s first four years were a debacle. The economy was destroyed. The stimulus package did not work. Obamacare got passed, but most polls indicated that a majority of the country did not want it. Unemployment was never really fixed. All of this led conservatives to believe that the country was ready for a change, much as it was in 1992 when Bill Clinton beat out George H.W. Bush. President Obama seemed ripe for the picking. They were wrong.
3. The voting blocs that are growing went with President Obama. The Hispanic vote was 70% in favor of President Obama. The younger generation vote was 60% in favor of President Obama. These two voting blocs will likely determine the president for years to come. The older generation, who will be dying out over the next couple of decades, largely voted with Governor Romney. The writing on the wall from this election is that it is going to be increasingly difficult for a conservative to win the White House unless they can somehow reach Hispanics and younger votes.
4. The conservatives anticipated a more energized base. Despite the rhetoric of the months preceding the election, this did not happen. Governor Romney got 2,600,000 less votes than John McCain. The conservative base was not energized.
5. The final reason the numbers do not tell the whole story is that social conservatives lost on numerous fronts. Three states, Maine, Maryland, and Washington, voted to allow gay marriage. This marks the first time that a popular vote has been in favor of gay marriage. Conservatives are also losing ground in the abortion battle, although there is more debate here than about gay marriage. One national exit poll had 59% of the voters believing that abortion should be legal in all circumstances. Add to this the passage of Obamacare and it appears that more Americans are in favor of abortion than ever before.
I am no expert on political matters. I could be wrong on some or all of these points. But I would argue that despite how close the numbers were most conservatives were stunned by the results and felt that President Obama got a huge win on Tuesday.