Figures behind the facts of Obama’s victory

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Americans went to the polls last week to perform their civic duty of either electing a brand new President or confirming the incumbent President, Barack Obama, for another term of four years. It was a nerve-wracking exercise that left Americans and, indeed, the entire world in gripping suspense – which at the end of the day produced one of the most intriguing and excitable outcomes in the history of the United States.

The re-election of Obama was greeted with spontaneous applause and jubilation across the globe. Even the supposed enemies of the United States also relished in the euphoria of his victory. However, one thing many people probably were oblivious of was that the outcome of the election was not as close as many had been made to believe. In fact, a critical appraisal of the results of the election shows President Obama won convincingly – meeting all the conditions for re-election. The analysis that is to follow will convince you.

Let me first of all, state that the Obama/Romney Contest generated more global awareness than any other presidential contest since the time of Bill Clinton when he defeated incumbent President George W. Bush (Senior) in the aftermath of the Iran/Iraqi War. The election of Clinton in 1990 did not generate as much heat as the Obama/Romney affair. Even the Al Gore/George W. Bush (Jnr.) electoral fight of 2000 did not match what we witnessed in the 2012 ‘war’. I refer to it as ‘war’ for obvious reasons.

First, Obama was seemingly fighting from many fronts – the economy, unemployment (that stood at 23%), hostile white voters, Hurricane Sandy, 65-years-and-above voters, etc. This made some people think that it was all over for him ever before the election proper took place. Second, Obama’s poor performance in the first television debate with Romney was viewed by some as having sounded the death-knell of his re-election. And so, some wrote him off! Third, Romney campaigned as never done before by any Republican presidential candidate, at least in recent times, traversing every state, including areas traditionally democrat.

This aroused fear in the minds of Democrats, including President Obama, causing them to review their plan and redouble their effort. Fourth, there was so much money available to both candidates since the Supreme Court removed the ceiling on the amount of money a candidate could spend in his electioneering. From what happened, at least in the media, it was certain that both candidates tried to outspend each other. At the last count, both had spent over 6 billion US dollars (N960 billion @ N160 to the dollar).

You see what I am talking about! Prior to the election of Tuesday, November 6, 2012, it was widely speculated that everything pointed to a Romney victory. In fact, it was alleged that he had already started smelling the White House. Divergent opinion pollsters gave him a slight edge over Obama. One particular opinion poll gave Romney 50% and Obama 48% – with 2% error margin. The pro-Romney forecasts continued to grow, even till the morning of the election.

The reason for this was very clear: it could be located in the facts I had adduced earlier in this piece. But deep inside me, I had a different feeling. Having followed very closely the past five United States’ presidential contests, I knew Obama was certainly going to win. The beauty of the American electoral system is that voters are not easily swayed by undue sentimentalism.

In short, their choice or perception of a candidate depends on a variety of factors that include age, educational background, past records in public or private service, and plan (what he plans to do for America in the areas of Foreign Policy, economy, military), etc. Looking dispassionately at these factors it was safe for me to conclude, long before the elections, that Obama would be re-elected, because he met every critical requirement. In age, for instance, he is younger than his rival and still very athletic and strong.

On foreign policy, he had been tested and trusted. Indeed, many Americans see him as a very firm and, at the same time, compassionate leader. His administrative acuity and masterly and suave political skills have since endeared him to a majority of Americans. It was not, therefore, surprising that he was able to offer the kind of leadership that tracked and killed the notorious terrorist, Osama Bin Laden.

Those that had thought he was a ‘weak’ leader were shocked by the way he handed the Osama job. Today, Americans feel safer and more confident in their country. Though he had no prior military-service experience before he was elected in 2008, Obama has been able to show solid leadership in this connection. Even his rival, Romney, did not have any advantage over him in this respect, since he, too, did not serve in the military. On the domestic scene, Obama has been able to hold his own. His healthcare programme (though buffeted by the opposition) is attractive to many Americans, especially the middle class.

Among women and the youth, Obama had an edge over Romney, and these probably accounted for his unexpected victory. Women and youth account for a sizeable number of eligible voters in any American elections. And the presidential contest of November 6 was no exception. The Afro-American, Latino and Hispanic voters also did the magic to sway victory to the side of Obama. The President’s promise to give immigrants a new lease of life by formulating policies that would favour them was also a big boost.

Another group that drastically influenced the re-election of Obama was non-voters, which formed 43% of America’s voting population in 2008. They favoured Obama this time round. Again, Obama’s resources were deployed to the swing states that controlled the majority of the electoral votes. The largest number of swing voters has always been the white-voting class voters. Many of them have no college education. He won sufficient number of this class of voters in battleground states. And this ensured his victory.

Another factor that facilitated Obama’s victory was the indiscrete comment credited to Mitt Romney in which he described 47% of Americans as “moochers’’. This estranged him to many of the voters, and the result was what we saw on November 6. However, it is important to state that Obama had his own sour point. His perceived silence over the contentious issue of cut in social security made his victory a bit difficult to achieve. Though every factor pointed to his victory, it would have been won more effortlessly if he had agreed to cut social security. For Romney, cut in social security became a refrain.

This endeared him to some of the voters, who ordinarily would have voted for Obama.   In all, Obama was definitely on a rollercoaster ride to victory ever before the dawn of November 6, 2012. Now let us look critically at the ABC of Obama’s victory – the figures behind facts and other calculations to see that even the numbers favoured Obama. In majority vote cast, Obama beat Romney by as many as 2.6 million votes.

On number of electoral votes won, Obama clinched 332, while Romney garnered 206. What are actually needed for any candidate to win the presidential slot are 270 electoral votes. Again, Obama won even without the result of one of the swing states – Florida (with 29 electoral votes) – which came out only last Saturday (five clears days after the election).

In the Florida result, Obama won by 74,000 votes, ending the fear of a recount as was the case in 2000. In the state with the highest electoral vote, 55, which is California, Obama won polling 5,573,450 votes (59.1%) to beat Romney who got 3,635,571 (38.6%). There are 21 states with double-digit electoral votes, namely; California (55), Texas (38), Florida (29), New York (29), Illinois (20), Pennsylvania (20), Ohio (18), Georgia (16), Michigan (16), North Carolina (15), New Jersey (14), Virginia (13), Washington (12), Arizona (11), Indiana (11), Massachusetts (11), Tennessee (11), Maryland (10), Minnesota (10), Missouri (10), and Wisconsin (10). These 21 states share among them 379 electoral votes, out of which Obama won 267 and Romney, 112.

Out of the 21 states in this category, Obama won 14 and Romney, 7 (Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas). The remaining 30 states have single-digit electoral votes. Out of the 30, Romney won 17 and Obama, 13. The 17 states are populated mainly by white voters, especially those between the ages of 65 and above. Their number was not significant to give Romney the desired victory. His highest electoral votes came from Texas with 38 votes. Here, he won 57.2% of the total votes cast, while Obama collected 41.4%. New York and Florida have 29 electoral votes each.

Obama pocketed the two states with a total of 58 electoral votes. Let me quickly point out here that the total percentage votes of the two candidates did not include the scores recorded by the Independents and others. In alphabetical order, the performance of each of the candidates cuts an interesting picture. There are four states that begin with letter A. Romney won in all the 4 (Alaska, 3 electoral votes; Alabama, 9; Arkansas, 6; and Arizona, 11).

In the 3 states that begin with letter B, Obama clinched all – California, 55; Colorado, 9; and Connecticut, 7. Obama also won the two states that begin with letter D; namely, D.C. Washington, 3, and Delaware, 3. Obama won Florida with 29 votes. Georgia with 16 votes went to Romney, while Hawaii, Obama’s maternal home, with 4 votes was won by Obama. Others are Iowa, 6 votes; Illinois (Obama’s base which he represented at some time as a senator), 20 votes; while Idaho, 4, and Indiana, 11 votes went to Romney. Obama won in Kansas and Kentucky with 6 and 8 electoral votes, respectively.

Louisiana with 8 votes went to Romney. There are 8 states that start with letter M. Obama won in the first 5 {Massachusetts (where Romney served as governor), 11, Maryland, 10, Maine, 4, Michigan 16, and Minnesota, 10}, and Romney took the last 3 (Missouri, 10, Mississippi, 6, and Montana, 3). Letter N with 8 states also presented a curious picture.

While Obama won in the last 5, Romney won in the first 3. Romney won in North Carolina (15), North Dakota (3), Nebraska (5), while Obama made it in New Hampshire (4), New Jersey, which was devastated by Hurricane Sandy (14), New Mexico (5), Nevada (6) and New York (29). In 3 ‘O’ states Obama won in two – Ohio (18) and Oregon (7) – and Romney, one (Oklahoma). Obama also took the lone ‘P’ state, Pennsylvania (20), while Romney clinched the only ‘R’ state – Rhode Island (4). As expected, Obama lost the two ‘S’ States – South Carolina (9) and South Dakota (3). Tennessee (11) and Texas (38) also went to Romney. Utah (6) went to Romney. Virginia (13) and Vermont (3) surrendered to the electoral firepower of Obama. Washington (12), Wisconsin (10) fell to Obama with Romney winning in the other two –West Virginia (5) and Wyoming (3).

Of the 51 states in the United States Obama won in 27, while Romney won in 24. Again, each of them won each of these states with 50% or more votes. While Romney got his highest percentage vote in Idaho with 84.6% or 4 electoral votes, Obama polled his own highest votes in D.C. Washington with 91.4% or 3 electoral votes. Obama’s worst performance (23.9%) was in Utah where Romney won the 6 electoral votes with 72.8% votes cast. Romney’s worst outing (7.1%) was in D.C. Washington.

Obama won the available 3 electoral votes with 91.4%. It is important to observe that voter turn-out between 2008 and 2012 shrank by over 11%, raising fears of likely increased voter apathy in years ahead. Though Obama won the presidential election, he is going to face the same hostile House of Representatives as he did in his first tenure.

The legislative elections held the same day produced a House controlled by the Republicans with 234 seats to Democrats’ 195. The Democrats, however, won the majority seats in the Senate with 55 seats to Republicans’ 45. In the House of Representatives, only 218 seats are needed for a majority. Democrats’ performance this year was a slight improvement over 2008 when they won 53 seats in the Senate. I do not expect any shift in the dispositions of the Republicans in either the Senate or the House of Representatives toward Obama.

Nonetheless, the partisanship or parochialism of the legislators will not stop Obama from implementing his programmes aimed at repositioning the United States in global politics.   Whatever the case may be, the elections have been won and lost, but the United States must move forward. The figures behind the facts have left us with no other choice than to continue to applaud the American system that has consistently given the world something to copy and experiment.

I hope Nigeria’s leaders, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and our politicians witnessed how history was made in the United States and are ready to replicate it in Nigeria. If at the end of the day we failed to imbibe the lesson from the United States, then we are doomed.

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