In late spring, the backroom number crunchers who powered Barack Obama’s campaign to victory noticed that George Clooney had an almost gravitational tug on West Coast females ages 40 to 49. The women were far and away the single demographic group most likely to hand over cash, for a chance to dine in Hollywood with Clooney — and Obama.
So as they did with all the other data collected, stored and analyzed in the two-year drive for re-election, Obama’s top campaign aides decided to put this insight to use. They sought out an East Coast celebrity who had similar appeal among the same demographic, aiming to replicate the millions of dollars produced by the Clooney contest. “We were blessed with an overflowing menu of options, but we chose Sarah Jessica Parker,” explains a senior campaign adviser. And so the next Dinner with Barack contest was born: a chance to eat at Parker’s West Village brownstone.
For the general public, there was no way to know that the idea for the Parker contest had come from a data-mining discovery about some supporters: affection for contests, small dinners and celebrity. But from the beginning, campaign manager Jim Messina had promised a totally different, metric-driven kind of campaign in which politics was the goal but political instincts might not be the means. “We are going to measure every single thing in this campaign,” he said after taking the job. He hired an analytics department five times as large as that of the 2008 operation, with an official “chief scientist” for the Chicago headquarters named Rayid Ghani, who in a previous life crunched huge data sets to, among other things, maximize the efficiency of supermarket sales promotions.
President Barack Obama won reelection because he energized liberals and expanded the electorate by finding and turning out his base, especially black voters.
Nowhere was this more evident than in Ohio, where black turnout increased by four percentage points from 2008′s historic turnout number. In turn, they gave Democrats a whopping seven-point partisan advantage at the polls on election day and provided Obama with his margin of victory in the crucial swing state.
In 2012, blacks made up 15% of Ohio’s electorate, and Obama received 96% of their vote to Mitt Romney’s 4%.
In 2008, black turnout made up 11% of Ohio’s electorate, and Obama won blacks by 95 points (97%-2%) over John McCain.
In 2004, black voters accounted for 10% of the vote Ohio. John Kerry received 84% of the black vote, while George W. Bush received 16%, five points above Bush’s national average among blacks.
These numbers show that Romney’s team — even as comparisons between 2012 and 2004 were incessantly made throughout the election cycle — never learned the most valuable and simplest lesson from Bush’s 2004 operation: in a so-called “base” election, the candidate who galvanizes and energizes his base the most wins.
African Americans are one of Democrats’ most loyal voting blocs, and Obama’s historic candidacy — and reelection — surely energized them.
Unlike the Republican establishment and Mitt Romney’s campaign, Democrats did not alienate, demean, or make their base feel disrespected. Democrats cultivated their votes, which made it easier for the party to organize. Their base — like African Americans did in Ohio — often took it upon themselves to bring other Democrats to the polls.
Despite losing the popular vote 51% to 48%–not a landslide for Obama by any means, but on the other hand not the “neck and neck” outcome many predicted–Mitt Romney would be President today if he had secured 333,908 more votes in four key swing states.
The final electoral college count gave President Obama a wide 332 to 206 margin over Romney. 270 electoral college votes are needed to win the Presidency.
Romney lost New Hampshire’s 4 electoral college votes by a margin of 40,659. Obama won with 368,529 to Romney’s 327,870.
Romney lost Florida’s 29 electoral college votes by a margin of 73,858. Obama won with 4,236,032 to Romney’s 4,162,174.
Romney lost Ohio’s 18 electoral college votes by a margin of 103,481. Obama won with 2,697,260 to Romney’s 2,593,779
Romney lost Virginia’s 13 electoral college votes by a margin of 115,910. Obama won with 1,905,528 to Romney’s 1,789,618.
Add the 64 electoral college votes from this switch of 333,908 votes in these four key states to Romney’s 206, remove them from Obama’s 332, and Romney defeats Obama 270 to 268.
Overall, voter turnout was down, from 131 million in 2008 to 122 million in 2012. Obama won 7.6 million fewer votes than he did in 2008, and Romney won 1.3 million fewer than McCain in 2008.
Romney improved his vote total’s over McCain’s by the slightest amount in three of these four states, but in Ohio, he actually had 81,000 fewer votes than McCain in 2008.
What do these facts tell us?
Both parties lost support of the population in the four years between 2008 and 2012. While Obama lost more support, he started with more, and he was able to hang on to enough of his base to overcome Romney’s inability to keep and expand his base.
Obama’s victory doesn’t constitute a mandate for his far left agenda to “transform America” into some nightmarish amalgam combining the worst features of a European socialist state with an Indonesian oligarchy.
This election was not about grand vision. It was about small details and focused pandering to specific demographic groups.
The Obama campaign performed its nationally divisive mission of small ball with excellence and focus. In contrast, the Romney campaign failed in the basic nuts and bolts of campaigning and lost focus on the four key states that mattered by diverting the candidate’s time and the campaign’s financial resources to states that didn’t matter.
Those four states, with a collective margin of, 406,348 for Obama, add up to 69 electoral votes. Had Romney won 407,000 or so additional votes in the right proportion in those states, he would have 275 electoral votes.
Obama’s margin in some other key states:
New Hampshire: 40,659