Obama vote down 11% from 2008, Romney underperforms McCain

Just a little bit more numbers crunching on the election. I’m almost done, I promise.

Florida still hasn’t called the race officially, but is supposed to sometime today (Saturday). Really, what an embarrassment for Florida election officials — for the 2nd time in 12 years.

But unless there’s a shoebox of uncounted votes from the Panhandle sitting undiscovered in a corner somewhere, Obama is going to win Florida by about .8 points, which means my electoral college prediction was right on the money. (I’ll need to see some more numbers to confirm, but it also looks like my rationales were correct.)

So with not quite but almost all the vote in, here’s where things stand:
Obama: 61,680,896
Romney: 58,482,875

The totals from 2008:
Obama: 69,492,376
McCain: 59,946,378

There’s obviously no single explanation for all these numbers, but here are some of the more obvious ones:

  • The 2008 election provided voters with an historic chance to elect a black president. That might have boosted turnout among some racists, but it generally was a positive for Obama.
  • In 2008, the economy was in a downward spiral and getting worse. The Bush administration seemed completely incapable of grasping what was going on — that did incalculable, irreversible damage to the Republicans on the ballot.
  • Despite some occasionally odd moves (like picking Palin as VP), McCain had both war-hero levels of respect and real credibility with moderates. Romney had to move so far right during the primary and articulated such a weak message for moderates who would call themselves fiscal conservatives that he couldn’t ever successfully broaden his support far enough beyond the ABO — Anyone But Obama — crowd.
  • The economy here in 2012 is getting better (to the consternation of many!), which might have caused some Americans to have no stake in the outcome.
  • The relatively good showing for 3rd parties (especially Gary Johnson) at 1.6 percent and the surge of support for Ron Paul in the primaries suggest that an increasing number of Americans found neither party’s message compelling. I’m guessing that a lot of those Ron Paul supporters didn’t vote last Tuesday, but I’ll need to see some numbers on that — just a guess. One clue: third party candidates did best in states like Idaho, Wyoming, and even Utah. In 2008, other candidates received a total of 2.1 percent; in 2012, that number was 2.8 percent.
  • Did Romney ever seal the deal with rural whites and cultural conservatives? They voted for him for sure — and heavily. But I’ll be curious to see the turnout numbers relative to 2008. In a poll a couple of months ago of the heavily Republican 12th district that Barrow ended up winning, only 53 percent of voters had lined up in support of Romney. (That’s almost exactly the support that Romney ended up with statewide.)
  • Obama’s steep decline — almost 8 million votes — likely had to do with Obamacare, with the slow recovery, perhaps with some lessening of enthusiasm among the most liberal Americans, the lack of a true historical moment like 2008.
  • As I’ve said before, the conviction of the Romney campaign and the right-wing punditocracy that they were winning almost certainly led to a weaker strategy in terms of motivating core supporters and appealing to moderates and independents.

By the way, of the states that Romney won, Georgia was the second closest. He took North Carolina by 2.2 percent. Georgia was next at 8.0 percent.

How many votes did Romney end up losing because of the relatively weak field of Republican Senate candidates who were generally to the right of the mainstream in their state? I suspect candidates like Murdouck and Akin hurt the national ticket, and even helped Democratic Senate candidates in other states.