Sometimes you win an election. Other times your opponent loses the election. What happened this time? Barack Obama clearly won the election. He did it in three key areas:
*Hispanic vote: Obama won the Hispanic votes by a wide margin over McCain, 66 to 34 percent. Republicans usually do better with George W. Bush having received 45 percent. The wide split in the Latino vote may be the reason Obama won Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado. He did extremely well with Cuban-Americans in Florida, usually a Republican block.
*Youth vote: People from 18 to 29 voted 72 to 28 percent for Obama. That’s a huge margin, basically a 3 to 1 ratio. This group was particularly dialed in to Obama’s internet-based campaign. From Facebook to YouTube, the majority of these voters get their news online. Obama spoke their language.
*White Voters: Fears of “white flight” and the “Bradley effect” never materialized. Obama held the Democrats' base of white voters. He had 43 percent. Compare that to Jon Kerry’s 41 percent four years ago and to Al Gore’s 42 percent in 2000; and it’s clear Obama’s appeal was wide and deep. The debates probably calmed a lot of fears about Obama. He came across as calm, clear, knowledgeable and Presidential. That probably solidified this base of voters. Ronald Reagan made a similar debate performance in 1980, calming fears that people should be afraid of having him in the White House
Now I know people are going to say, "What about black voters?" Well, Obama took 96 percent of that demographic. That’s slightly higher than won by previous Democrats. What about women? Yes, there was a gender gap, with Obama taking 57 percent of female voters to 43 percent for McCain; but that’s in line with previous elections. The threatened great flight of Hillary voters to McCain never really gelled.
The most significant thing Obama did tactically was to run an aggressive campaign in many traditionally Republican states. This worked so well that Obama won nine states which President Bush won in 2004: Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. Obama’s goal was not just to win; he wanted to win convincingly to claim a mandate.
In all my years of covering politics, it was one of the best run and most disciplined campaigns I have ever seen.
A word of caution, though. Success on the campaign trail does not translate to success in the White House. Jimmy Carter ran a very inspiring and upstart campaign in 1976 and won. But he could not work the same magic in the White House and was sent packing four years later.