Obama-McCain: some facts and figures

The final results of the US presidential election are not yet in [16 November 2008], but we know enough to highlight some key figures. With 66.7 million popular votes and counting, and with a lead of 6.5 percentage points over John McCain, Barack Obama won more popular votes than any other US presidential candidate in history: nearly 8 million more than John Kerry in 2004, and a cool 15.7m more than Al Gore in 2000 (when Gore won more popular votes than G W Bush, but lost in the Supreme Court – remember?). Obama’s share of the popular vote (52.6%) was the highest of any Democratic candidate since LBJ (1964), and higher than any Republican since 1956 except GWH Bush, Reagan (1984) Nixon (1972) and Eisenhower (1956).

Some suggest that Obama won because many Republicans failed to vote, but the figures scarcely confirm this: John McCain won 58.3m votes (46.1%, comparable with GW Bush in 2000 with 47.9%), 3.8m fewer than GW Bush in 2004 but 7m more than the same Bush in 2000. Each candidate won a very respectable share of the vote, on probably the highest percentage turnout (over 60%) for 40 years. Those who imagine an entire American population transformed by the election into leftish, colour-blind liberals need reminding that Senator McCain, after a policy-lite campaign driven by smears, innuendos and outright lies, and representing the party of the most unpopular President in American history, nevertheless won 58.3 million votes across the country, including an estimated 55% of white voters, taking almost all the mid-west (from Montana and North Dakota southwards) and the south, apart from Colorado, New Mexico and Florida (which Obama narrowly won, 51–49%). Equally sobering, McCain was ahead in the polls until the breaking of the financial crisis and his frivolous selection of Governor Palin as running-mate, two factors that probably lost him the election.

The victory of President Elect Barack Obama is hugely welcome to almost everyone in the outside world, as several polls confirm; but he will have a monumental task in living up to the extraordinary expectations that have been raised as he confronts the challenges of climate change, global recession, world poverty, terrorism and foreign oil dependency, and two unwinnable wars – the poisoned chalice about to be handed to him on 20 January by outgoing President George W Bush.

Selected sources:



http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/world/archives/2008/11/06/2003427930 (quoting AP)




5 Responses

  1. Carl Lundquist/LA says:

    Actually Gore lost in the Electoral College, not the Court.  The Court merely terminated the wrangling.  But as the old Los Angeles saying goes that was then, this is now.   52% of the voters went for Obama, 46% went for McCain.  The Electoral College magnified that into more of a majority than it was thereby working for the Demos this time.   Good enough. With the choice of Palin, and the campaign turn that signaled, John won the right wing base of the party but lost his own centrist base — guys like me.   Evidently he did not just lose us — we did not stay home, we went out and voted for his opponent.That is the clue about America, we are resolutely centrist.  To win a US election a politician must be able to occupy the center and force his opponent the right, or left.   We dislike the idea of revolutionary change and are suspicious of its advocates.  Obama is well apprised of this fact.  His initial moves have been quite cautious.   His tactics are very Reaganesque.  He has put his White House staff building first, long before the Cabinet.  His Chief of Staff is a well known Washington SOB, a hard man.  With his staff nailed down and brought under control, he is now concentrating in co-opting his rivals.   Hillary Clinton for Sec. of State — interesting concept.  Explicitly reminiscent of Lincoln’s choice of Seward.   Warm publicity over a tete-a-tete with McCain.  Could this be filibuster insurance in the Senate?  So far, excellent grades.   Watch him Brian, this lad is really cute — warm, folksy, superbly organized and pragmatic, and calculating as hell. 

    Brian writes: Thanks once again for this illuminating comment, Carl. As to whether Gore lost in the electoral college or the Supreme Court in 2000, my recollection is that the main issue decided by the Court was whether to order certain votes in Florida that had been disallowed to be declared valid and counted, or possibly whether there should be a second round of voting in some predominantly black areas of Florida where large numbers of would-be voters had allegedly been prevented from voting: in other words, whether the apparent result in the electoral college should be re-opened. It seems to me an accurate summary of that situation to say that Gore lost the Presidency in the Supreme Court, although I accept that there can be no certainty that even if he had won in the Supreme Court and the contest in parts of Florida had been put to the vote again by one means or another, Gore would necessarily have won. As I recall, the US media and others conducted various polls and even counted the disallowed votes to see what would have happened had the Court gone the other way, but the results were necessarily inconclusive, some arguing that Bush would still have won and others that Gore would probably have squeaked home — and moved into the White House. I suppose we shall never know.

    Incidentally, I’m intrigued by your description of Obama as ‘folksy’. I thought it had been generally felt during the campaign, by Americans anyway, that McCain was the folksy one and that Obama struck many as aloof, intellectual, “élitist” — the opposite of folksy, in fact. It’s the folksiness of some American politicians that often jars on us prim Europeans, and it was the seeming lack of it in Obama that had us all drooling over the prospect of having in the White House a President who appeared to think before he spoke, used long words, had not only read books but actually written two extremely good ones himself, and seemed in some way to occupy his own space, even when patting small children on the head. (Of course Clinton was, and is, the supreme example, wouldn’t you agree?, of an ability to combine a manifestly first-rate intellect with no end of folksiness — when necessary.)

  2. Carl Lundquist/LA says:

    Ah, here we are now, talking about then.  One thing forgotten in the recollection of the events of 2000 was that the Supreme Court was reached by an appeal.   Bush v. Gore had been filed by Gore with the Florida Supreme Court.  The court favored the Gore recount with a blistering dissent by the sole independent on the court.  The USSC picked up the case on appeal by Bush.  They decided based on the ‘safe harbor’ provision of the US Constitution.   The point I would make is that no one, Gore or Bush, has hands clean of lawyering in that election.   He who would live by lawsuit shall die by lawsuit.

    You had better believe that Obama is doing folksy nowadays.  All American presidents have to do that.  The tradition goes back to Andrew Jackson, who hammered John Quincy Adams with folksy.  The last president to not do folksy with the public was the brilliant Herbert Hoover, who had never run for office prior.  We all know what happened to poor Herbert — the warm, folksy, organized, pragmatic, and calculating FDR. 

    Brian writes: Carl, I don’t see any grounds for objection to ‘lawyering’ (if by that you mean simply resort to the courts) by either side if it believes that there has been illegal tampering with the election process, especially if it appears to have been on such a scale as to put the overall result into question. What does seem to me questionable is the Supreme Court’s decision to prevent validation of wrongly disallowed votes and recounts — especially when its decision in this case entailed overturning the decision of the lower (Florida) court and disenfranchising large numbers of US citizens. The decision is made the more potentially suspect by the partisan political and ideological basis for appointing Supreme Court justices, at any rate as many Europeans (including this one) see it.

    Folksy is, I suppose, in the eye of the observer: over here we get the strong impression that your President-elect does it a lot less than some others who come readily to mind!

  3. Carl Lundquist/LA says:

    I would only note that two courts were involved.  The Florida Supreme Court with Democrat appointed majority and the US with a Republican appointed one.  That point is usually omitted in remembering the event.   But as I said, that was then, this is now, and now is Barak Obama.

  4. Carl, Amongst the best comments on the 2000 election can be heard at the end of the film Recount.Two democrats are about to fly back from Florida to wherever. They a debating the result.The conversation goes like this.”We should have asked for state recounts from the get go ( you will remember that the Gore team lost much of the moral high ground by only asking for recounts in the places where Gore was strong.)Ralph Nader should have pulled his head out of his ass;Elian Gonzalez should never have left Miami; Gore should have campaigned with Clinton; Clinton should have been caught getting a blow-job from Sharon Stone instead of Monica Lewinski. Then his approval ratings would have gone through the roof;Katherine Harris (Florida’s Sec of State) should have thought twice about purging 20,000 voters from the rolls;George Bush jnr. should never have quit drinking..but he did. It’s what it is pal!”t

  1. 22 November, 2008

    Remember the hanging chad?…

    Brian Barder and Carl Lundquist here are discussing the 2000 US Presidential election. Gore won the popular vote but lost……