Several weeks ago, some Americans made broad pronouncements that Barack Obama had lost the election. He was desperate. It was over. I stated that the widely available facts did not support this conclusion; that Barack Obama was going to lose, nor that he was in trouble. There are any number of blogs and websites for tracking polls and giving us, the voters, real time information. By far, the best and most accurate was Nate Silver’s 538 blog, which is now part of the New York Times. Nate Silver is part of the New York Times, not because he is a liberal, but because he has developed a model that is extremely accurate. He has the ability to take an individual poll, compare it to historical values and then weigh the poll accordingly. I have known about and followed Nate Silver since 2006 or 2007. All I can tell you is that he is a geek who knows that he is extremely smart and he understands that his reputation is on the line every time he makes a prediction.
As we learned in 2000, in the United States with the current configuration of its electoral college (which should be abolished, but I’ll save that discussion for another day), the popular vote doesn’t matter. If you want win the White House, you have to figure out how to win the electoral college. Early in this race, every thoughtful pundit knew that there were simply a handful of states that mattered. I’m not arguing whether that is right or wrong. I am stating this as a fact. Large states like Texas, Alaska, California and New York simply don’t matter. No amount of money that Barack Obama would spend in Texas was going to switch Texas to a Democratic state. On the other hand, there’s no amount of money that Mitt Romney could spend in California or New York that would turn either to a red Republican state. So, we knew the contest came down to swing states. These are states that have an unusual population. They have a balance of big cities and rural areas. Rural areas tend to go Republican. Large metropolitan areas with diverse populations tend to vote Democratic. There are only a few states that have the right mix – Florida, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida. The presidential election came down to these states.
The other thing that we have to factor into the equation is the fact that Barack Obama had more electoral votes in his pocket at the beginning of Tuesday than did Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney started with 180 electoral votes. Barack Obama start off with 186. These were states that were clearly in the bag. These were states that everyone knew the back in December how they were going to vote. Then, over the next several months, Arizona and North Carolina broke for Mitt Romney, giving him an additional 26 electoral votes. At the same time, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Nevada and Pennsylvania broke for the president. This gave the president an extra 57 electoral votes. So early Tuesday morning, before any of the polls opened, Barack Obama had 243 electoral votes in his pocket. Mitt Romney had 206. Mitt Romney had to come up with 64 electoral votes and Barack Obama had only come up with 27. While some people were freaking out over this state or that state the contest really came down to Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin – 89 electoral votes. Mitt Romney basically had to run the table.
Mitt Romney and his campaign staff decided that they could win the election if they could manage to win white males by a landslide. That didn’t happen. Barack Obama won the youth vote. Barack Obama won the Latino vote, the Black vote and won 42% of white women. Barack Obama also won the majority the Jewish vote in states like Florida. Barack Obama won the majority of Americans making under a hundred thousand dollars a year. This broad coalition of minorities, women and the non-rich equals victory.
Barack Obama put together a winning coalition. Mitt Romney decided he did not need a coalition. He could win the United States by alienating everybody and embracing white men. Thankfully, in 2012, that’s not a winning strategy.