November 3rd, 2008
04:32 PM ET

For Obama, bigger is much, much better

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/11/03/art.obama.mccain.buttons.jpg]
David Gergen | BIO
AC360° Contributor
CNN Senior Political Analyst

With victory almost in his grasp, the looming question for Barack Obama is whether he will squeak by or whether he can roll up the score. It will matter enormously to his leadership as President.

For Obama supporters, just climbing to the top of the mountain with 270 electoral votes has always seemed daunting enough. And they are right. After all, Democrats have seen triumphs slip away from them so often - they have lost 7 of the past 10 presidential elections - that they are extremely uneasy that the Republicans can pull an upset this time, too. It seems unlikely after a raft of national polls this weekend showed Obama with a national lead of around 7 points - and by some estimates in double digits. Still, there were also unsettling state polls last night by the Mason Dixon firm showing McCain closing in fast in North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio and Missouri. Who can say for sure that Pennsylvania will remain blue. It ain't over 'till it's over.

But when the dust clears and if the Democrats have pulled it off, the Obama team will care a great deal about the size and breadth of victory. Much of his early presidency will hang in the balance.

There are three keys to watch on Tuesday night:

1. Percentage of the national vote. Right now, there is a solid prospect that Obama can rack up 51 percent or more of the total vote. If so, he would be the first Democrat since Jimmy Carter to win a majority of the national vote (Carter had 50.1 percent) and only the second Democrat since Franklin Roosevelt to claim a majority (Lyndon Johnson was the other). That historic standing would give Obama a fresh boost as the president-elect and would mean that he could run ahead of Members of Congress in their own states. In Washington, that gives a president extra power.

2. Number of red states won. In recent campaigns, Democratic presidential contenders have won mostly on the east and west coasts and the upper midwest. John Kerry only won 19 states plus the District of Columbia, and one could get on a plane at Dulles and fly to Los Angeles without flying over a state that the Democrats won.

Obama has had a vision since his convention speech in 2004 of Democrats becoming a national party, getting beyond the traditional red/blue divides. And he now has a good chance of doing it. If he can win a couple of southern states, plus two or three states from the Rocky Mountains, not to mention more Midwestern areas, he can claim a true national victory - and he would have the makings of a new, majority coalition for the Democrats, something they have lacked for decades.

3. The size of Democratic wins in the Senate and House. The Democrats were heading toward significant pick-ups with or without a presidential win, but if Obama racks up a convincing victory and is accompanied by nine or more new Democratic Senators and a couple of dozen new House members, that will give him muscle on Capitol Hill that few Presidents have enjoyed. I was working for Ronald Reagan in 1980 when he trounced Jimmy Carter and Republicans swept to 12 pick-ups in the Senate and 33 in the House. Reagan was much more respected - and effective - in working with Congress because of that thumping victory.

So, the eyes of the Obama team will be focused on getting to 270 electoral votes tomorrow night, but those who care about governing - and Obama cares more than most appreciate - will be watching, too, to see how big and broad a victory he can achieve. It could be an historic night in more ways than one.

Filed under: Barack Obama • David Gergen • Raw Politics
soundoff (87 Responses)
  1. Francis

    My Prediction
    Obama/Biden 291
    McCain/Palin 247

    November 4, 2008 at 7:41 am |
  2. beverly

    Mc Cain has been playing the Rev Wright commercial here for the past 4 days non-stop every half hour

    If the voters vote for Mc Cain because of this it will be ashame.

    Mc Cain put himself before his country along with the media.

    November 4, 2008 at 7:32 am |
  3. Alex, Florida

    I always stop and listen when David Gergen has an opinion to offer
    about politics and policy. It usually makes a lot of sense and stays
    above the bickering that passes for journalism these days. I hope
    we see you advising another American president soon. Perhaps the new President will actually listen to advice gained through experience and knowledge as opposed to strident political conventional wisdom.
    Thanks for bringing a smidgen of truth to daily political talk in the USA.

    November 4, 2008 at 7:32 am |
  4. Chris Ohrstrom

    Your analysis is spot on. Unfortunately hubris is not only a perogative of the right. Bin Laden brought down the empire with a small cadre and a simple, brilliant plan. The America we will see in the next ten years will resemble the Britain of Harold Wilson rather than the America of the post war era, a country that refuses to work and nourishes itself on nostalgia of the lost empire.

    The problem is ultimately that Americans now lack character and grit. They talk a good game but in the end they want lots of benefits without sacrifice. They are fat deer hunters, wearing paramilitary camo and waving around semi automatic weapons from atop 4 wheelers and pretending to be real hunters.

    If America could just convince the rest of the world to get into a huge war and destroy all their infrastructure, it could be king of the hill again.

    If I was not subject to US taxation for the next 10 years even if I renounce my citizenship, I would be out of here and into a country with a future.
    This place has already gone socialist under the right and it will just get worse under the super majority coming in today. It is already over here.

    November 4, 2008 at 7:14 am |
  5. Mike Thomas

    All of your hard work for Obama is finally paying off. No questions, no scrutiny, no rigor. Just adulation. You should move over to MSNBC and join Chris Matthews. CNN puts you out as an 'objective' commentator and this is a big joke. You and Anderson and all of the rest of you are 'in the tank' for Obama. Get ready for higher taxes, fewer jobs, and diminished national security

    November 4, 2008 at 6:57 am |
  6. Mark

    Very good article David. I have always listened to your commentary simply because you have been on both sides, which is a unique perspective.

    For all of those whiny Repubs.......get over it. If McCain was up in the polls you would not be on these blogs blaming the media and false polling. You would tell the Dems to stop complaining. Americans, nay, human beings, need to stop allowing themselves to be brainwashed (this is for Dems and Repubs). Do your own homework instead of listening to overly biased commercials, websites, and media types. I have read too many blogs where writers are just spitting back the rhetoric they've been spoon fed. It's ridiculous people.

    Lastly, to the Repubs who really have done their homework and think the country is going into the tank amidst a Dem "windfall", might I suggest taking some of Cindy McCain's DADDY's money, buy an island (we'll call it Loser's Island) and live there for the next four years under the current "rich getting richer" tax plan.

    BTW......I am a registered Indie, just tired of self-serving, egotistical, crybaby attitudes.

    November 4, 2008 at 6:48 am |
  7. Mike Lahey

    It doesn't deserve a response because the logic is cracked, but those who question Obama's being a citizen need to remember that McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone. Not that there's anything wrong with that...either.

    November 4, 2008 at 6:23 am |
  8. Gene Penszynski from Vermont

    Well all the nonesense speculation is about to be put to the test.

    My prediction Obama wins in a lanslide !. Once again America on the brink of a monumental disaster has saved itself. God Bless the USA !

    November 4, 2008 at 6:22 am |
  9. Mark Burns

    I'm sure that the American people will sleep much better at night knowing that President Obama is running the country. I'm sure his grandmother will be watching down on him as he wins today.

    November 4, 2008 at 5:43 am |
  10. KG


    You are forgetting that those pundits are also voters as well and since they are seen on CNN, Fox, and MSNBC almost everyday their opinions carry a lot of weight with their audience. Last I heard is that David Gergen is non-partisan and he's served with Republicans and Democrats in the White House. His opinions are more objective and unbiased then Bay Buchanan or Roland Martin. What he says is true. Obama is still leading but John McCain is catching up. If you look at the how much money Obama has raised for his campaign (which came mostly from small donations by supporters.) and saw his rallies, you could see that there are more people wanting Obama in the presidency. I do believe that this race will be very close so we really don't know if Obama will become the President-elect or McCain. If you'll recall,t these pundits were asked to make a prediction and they are going by what they see in the polls and the response to both campaigns by the public. You're reacting emotionally because you like the McCain/Palin ticket and David is not gushing over them like Cindy from Ga would want him to. Even Ed Rollins, the Republican pundit, agrees that Obama could very well be the next president.

    November 4, 2008 at 5:26 am |
  11. Michael

    As a young black kid growing up in Texas during the sixties I saw many horrific things. I experienced cross burning in the outfield of our High School Baseball Games. Watched kids like me being harassed and jailed for throwing rocks near a school. Saw kids from my neighborhood dragged from their homes without warrants or probable cause, beatened, jailed an accused of committing crimes they did not commit because Officers were bored. I saw a young black man beaten, and dragged from the back of a car by his feet until most of the flesh from his bones was removed just because he walked in a white neighborhood. Blacks were denied the right to vote, my mother (Valedictorian of your High School Class) was not allowed to enrolled in State Universities in Texas, watched my father work in the same Muffler Shop for 45 years from age 17 to his early death of Asbestos poisoning at age 62 because blacks were not given the opportunity to compete for jobs held by whites and the government did not see the need to regulate or warn workers of the dangers of asbestos used in brakes. Heard stories from my grandmother about tales her grandmother who was a slave told her. Too horrific to repeat....
    I managed to overcome all of that and graduate with a Master Degree in Public Administration. I'm one of the lucky few blacks who earn six figures, own my house in California and a beach house in Mexico.

    As tough as it has been for me and people like me, some of us never stopped believing that if we worked hard, played by the rules, loved and cherished our family, helped others while not being judgmental that our time would come.

    Barack's time has come. He's earned it. He's run the best campaign in recent memory but what makes me most proud of Barack is not that he may win tomorrow but that he did it the right way. Barack has put himself in a position to win the presidency without resorting to personal attacks, cheap political tricks or tactics aimed at dissecting and dividing our country along racial, regional, religious or cultural lines.

    Whatever you may think of Barack, you have to admit to yourself that he did it the right way.
    I'm frankly tired of having a president who governs 45% of America. We need a President who will govern all of us. Listening to all of our concerns even when he doesn't agree with some of them.
    I respect everyone's right to express their opinion but please if Barack is elected President later today just give him an opportunity to succeed. That's all. No more; no less.

    Tomorrow can be historic, you will remember this day for the rest of your lives with he wins...

    November 4, 2008 at 5:25 am |
  12. Brian

    Melinda, a psychic would not by definition make a prediction because if they actually existed they would just tell you the future. A prediction is just an educated guess based on evidence and remember you probably make several hundred small predictions every day that you just don't think about, they just go by a different name "Reason". If I asked you who do you think will win, what would you say? Remember according to your logic if you give any answer at all then you're in the same boat that you are putting David. Also don't confuse conversation with anyone deciding the election, you're right only voting does that. This is just political discussion and you're making yourself sound foolish. Please believe me, I am just trying to help.

    November 4, 2008 at 3:55 am |
  13. dan cucich

    President Bush ran as a compassionate conservative,(read: moderate conservative) but he turned aroud and governed as a far right ideologue-afetr losing the popular vte in 2000.

    Let's also remember that the republican senate majority leader, Bill Frist, threatened to change the senate rules to abolish the fillibuster
    if democrats tried to filibuster the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

    That means the majority party does not really need a filibuster proof majority: they can simply change the Senate rules to abolish the filibuster and pass what they please by simple majority votes-if Harry Reid has the guts to give the republicans a taste of their own medicine. I hope the democrats remember how the republicans ran roughshod over them the last 12 years,

    I also hope Obama reinstates the fairness doctrine and reins in
    the rabid hate rado jocks who have so polarized this country with their vile angry rants which has stir red so much hatered and division among Americans.

    dan cucich

    November 4, 2008 at 3:46 am |
  14. J.V.Hodgson

    Very frankly speaking, whichever party wins both need not only to win the electoral college but also a firm and manageable majority in the Senate and House as well.
    I say again irrespective of who is elected president.
    Why? The American economy is in tatters, and dragging the global economy down with it as well. Two major military based wars Iraq and Afghanistan, and the so called global war on terrorism.
    Therefore whoever is elected president must be able to avoid the gridlock in washington characteristic of the last two years.
    I am personally more for common sense and bipartisan ship much talked about as " accross the aisle" but that phrase inherently says Ideology rules.
    Whoever wins has to have the power to put in place a coherent strategy to resolve the economy and rescue America's international reputation with consistent new ideas on US diplomacy and improving the US A's badly damaged International reputation.

    November 4, 2008 at 3:37 am |
  15. shrink

    Thanks for the analysis, David.

    If Obama's governance is anywhere near as effective as his campaign, the country will be well served. Let's hope so.

    November 4, 2008 at 3:29 am |
  16. Hussein

    It's over. Sen. Hillary Clinton was a far more formidable opponent than McCain. It will be a landslide...

    November 4, 2008 at 3:20 am |
  17. DANAH

    Obama will be our next president I strongly believe this, He is For the People And He Is That Fresh Breath of Air We Need To Revive this Great Country OBAMA`08 ALL THE WAY MESSIN WIT MC CAIN YU WILL HAVE SUM DRAMA SO VOTE OBAMA "CHANGE IS GOOD"

    November 4, 2008 at 3:18 am |
  18. TB

    Ann Dunham was born in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas while her father was in the US army .

    November 4, 2008 at 2:59 am |
  19. sabina

    i've placed a lot of hope on obama and his abilities to put some order on this mess the bush era casued to the whole world....the wrong war with thousands of victims, all the money spent to pursue in his cowboy way of leading the once-used-to-be most powerfull nation......the price america is paying, and will continue to pay for a long time, is to high and the americans should wake up....... obama is the good start for the big change, McCain is to much war minded and to much bush oriented to give serenity to americans and the rest of the world.
    i believe that if america wants to avoid the big depression (and it is reaching that point so fast!!!) .... obama might be the solution, but mccain definitely will be the second mistake americans do (the fisrt was give g.w. bush the chance to lead the nations...unfortunatelly he lead toward economical disctruction).
    start healing you sick contry, VOTE OBAMA (and maybe the world will give you thanks!!!!)

    November 4, 2008 at 2:55 am |
  20. Rick

    Thanks for the historical perspective, David.
    I'm sure Obama will take any extra political capital that he can get, but his success will be determined ultimately by the quality of solutions offerred. Bush had political capital in spades- yet squandered it. It is something that quickly erodes if not put to good use.
    It's too bad that McCain's campaign – cut out of the same cloth as Bush campaigns- has been so divisive, because sulking Republicans won't be easily won over. But if they get beat badly enough.... maybe they can start to accept that their time-honored formula of using fear has run its course and will quit this game of distorting their brand of Conservatism as somehow being ordained by God and that "trickle down" is the only way to grow an economy.

    November 4, 2008 at 2:45 am |
  21. Kate, Los Angeles

    jv88- you apparently don't even know Obama's history. He was a community organizer- helped people who lost their jobs in a plant, get retrained and back to work. worked with churches to develop community outreach programs for poor communities that needed better education, housing, etc. Obama spend 12 years as a University Professor teaching constitutional law to future public servants that will support the rights of people in America. Obama then worked in the State Senate for 7 years and then in the US Senate for 2 years. Obama graduated first in his class from Harvard Law school. Obama is highly intelligent, has inspired millions of Americans to volunteer, be involved in politics and to help others in their community. Obama has run a well organized campaign with a positive message of Change and tax cuts to 95% of working families, incentives for small businesses, 5 million new jobs to build a new frontier for energy independence, provide affordable healthcare options for those that are uninsured, etc.

    John McCain graduated from National War college, bottom 3rd in his class. Spent 20+ years in the senate, involved in Keating 5 scandal. What has John McCain offered that is different in economic policy or campaign tactics than GW Bush? Nothing. It is the same.

    It's time for change and America will get it right this time, Obama for President for the change we need.

    Thanks Gergen for a great article and I predict Obama will win FL, OH, VA, NC, CO, NV, NM and MO.

    November 4, 2008 at 2:41 am |
  22. Sam

    Declared! Obama wins by 320+ points!

    November 4, 2008 at 2:37 am |
  23. Al

    "Lets see if you can count his mother and father were not American Citizens. The state became a state in 1959 he was born in 1961 it take 7 years to become a citizen. Only born citizens can hold that office."

    #1. His mother was born in Kansas. Last time I checked, someone born in Kansas qualified as a US citizen. #2. When a US citizen has a child that child is considered a US citizen regardless of where it was born. #3. If Hawaii became a state in 1959 and Obama was born in 1961, then, defacto, he is a US citizen ( I know... math is hard) #4. When a state is granted statehood, people don't have to wait seven years to become citizens. It does take seven years to become a US citizen IF you are an individual immigrant seeing citizenship. Again, the seven years is for immigrants, not for states.

    I would recommend a repeat of both Geography and Civics!

    November 4, 2008 at 2:33 am |
  24. Bini San

    For Michelle Obama, I guess smaller must be better.

    November 4, 2008 at 2:23 am |
  25. Robin M.

    Dear David Gergen,
    Now that the election is over I will probably go back to my normal life instead of being obsessed with daily politics. But over the course of the last year I had a chance to get to know many fascinating people in the world of politics and policial commentary. And perhaps none were more insightful or found tastier chestnuts to mull over more than you. I have been aware of you for years but never took any notice. My ears would prick up when you would take your turn at the panel.

    Forgive the flattery. But now seems to be the time to deliver it. It has been a life changing election. And besides getting to know you. In want to also note that in my entire life of 47 years I have never had the opportunity to listen to intelligent, educated blacks on a daily basis. This is just one of the many reasons that even if Barack Obama is not elected, he has changed the world for the better in many ways.

    Its been exciting and thank you for making my world a better place this year. I am (almost) sorry its over.

    November 4, 2008 at 2:17 am |
  26. Faith

    Stop it, and just Breath. Talk about silly season. If bloggers would just skip the drama and Obama fear-mongering, we would all benefit. No one believes it anyway. Some of these bloggers are ill-informed about the Obama family and make silly assertions about socialism, citizenship and character. Don’t they read anything except polemic emails from the smear campaigns? People need to think critically. Barack Obama proves daily that he is sturdy, respectful and full of pride for his nation. He is 100% American apple-pie. Obama has uncommon discipline, class and true respect for the country and ALL OF ITS PEOPLE. This is why he will win this race. His charisma and ability to inspire is only icing on the cake. I realize that many people do not agree with my point of view, but I don't resort to asserting ridiculous claims about McCain and Palin who have shown little gravitas or good judgment throughout their campaign. I am embarrassed for McCain and his sad attempt to paint Obama as anything except an equal. McCain does not understand how his party has run this country into the ground. We are in big trouble buddy. Stop, breath and listen for just a second and you will see that Obama proves daily that he is ‘Steady Eddie” and worthy of the office of the President of the United States. Breath.

    November 4, 2008 at 1:55 am |
  27. April

    Have you noticed how angry and bitter, mean and somewhat cruel McCain supporters are being on the Internet?

    Compare that to most of Obama's supporters who speak of hope and change. Most of us aren't belittling the opponents on a personal level, though it is certainly possible.

    We find fault with the issues, with the 90% pro-Bush voting record of McCain, with the lack of knowledge of Palin. It's a big dog-and-pony show.

    McCain has dug deep to try to blast Obama with negative, hateful things – conjecture, based on false claims and fear.

    Obama has taken the high road and blasted McCain on the issues. Certainly McCain's morals and family values could be called into question, but why do that when we can call him on so many other issues like education, the economy, and his own cronyism.

    While McCain is twisting and turning and doing whatever it takes to make Americans feel fear, Obama eloquently asks us to look ahead to the future, to get the vote out, and to support him. If you like nothing else about Obama, like his dignity and decency. Please VOTE FOR CHANGE today. VOTE OBAMA.

    November 4, 2008 at 1:52 am |
  28. bimbrook

    Thank you David, once again.

    A few years ago I found myself telling my children: "Its not official unless Gergen says it!" 'Lofty words! Don't you have anything to say about the millions of mindless no-nothings in our country who impact elections and are quick 'out of the gate' with opinions while being unable to seperate fact from fantasy? I reference: sfokc6125.


    November 4, 2008 at 1:37 am |
  29. Trudy in Peoria

    Were republicans this scared in 1992 on the eve of Bill Clinton being elected as president? It amazes me how so many racist Americans are that afraid of having an African-American president. Wake-up, it's not 1960 anymore. Obama is the best man for the job, not a trigger-happy old man who doesn't understand the economy.

    November 4, 2008 at 1:37 am |
  30. Kim

    Pundit ? One who gives options in an authoritative manner ! Critic ? Anderson Cooper had to talk over all the pundits in a fuss tonight to bring about closure but they still wouldn't stop the fuss ! No one became physically aggressive that viewers are aware but we'd like to hear what you're response to the situation is Mr. Cooper ? Indetermintism situational on the eve of a nerve wrecking election ? This event could be recorded historically and please remember your manners pundits ! Wait your turn and listen or viewers can't hear what you're saying ! It's a rodeo ! Send in the clowns ! All comments are reviewed and deemed appropriate ? When they went to commerical did anyone throw a first punch or storm off angry cause ya couldn't hear a word they said ! Is there no administrative remedy in the real world ? Peace out !

    November 4, 2008 at 1:36 am |
  31. John Allison

    Mr.Gergen...I have the greatest respect for you.My Comment:

    When I see the kind of campaign Obama has run and the organization of it so evident over the past two years...the obvious Obama "stamp" on it and his wonderful choice of people to facilitate the operation of probably the best run campaign in US election history...I see the kind of President Obama will be & a White House that will be a shining place for all Americans & indeed people all around the world to look up to.

    McCain is & always has been incapable of this kind of operation.He does not have the temperment,nor smarts,nor education to measure up to a candidate like Obama.

    It is all so self-evident as the campaign closes.

    God Bless Obama,his family & the United States of America!

    November 4, 2008 at 1:26 am |
  32. Marth

    Melinda states:
    "Mr. Gergen,
    I am glad to know your psychic ability has predicted an Obama win. ... I say, let the people vote before deciding the outcome of this election. I am so sick of all the pundits being like this. Well, I stopped watching CNN and MSNBC, so I really do not watch any pundits. The American voter will decide this election...",

    Hmm–I would be willing to bet that Melinda watches so-called "fair and balanced" Fox. Note to Melinda: CNN and MSNBC are not liberal. Read the fine print.

    November 4, 2008 at 1:20 am |
  33. Nic

    Cindy states, "These polls you point to have been wrong WAY more than right. The TIPP poll, the most accurate of 2004 has the race at a 2.1 spread."

    So by your argument, Obama still wins. Nice.

    November 4, 2008 at 1:16 am |
  34. Patrick M


    So glad that McCain isn't going to come within a chance of winning, as he was clearly born outside the United States, and is no natural-born citizen and so is not eligible for the presidency. The years in court trying to justify his eligibility would consume us all...

    November 4, 2008 at 1:13 am |
  35. James

    David – good comments, but I must say I have been extremely disappointed in what has been an almost open bias on your part in favor of Barack Obama. It started during the primaries and got even worse in the general election. It seems to me you should declare yourself either a democratic strategist or an Obama supporter just like Roland Martin does. Given your solid liberal views I find it hard to understand how you could have worked in the Reagan administration. You must have undergone a idealogical transformation over the years. In any case, you should try to be more objective if you expect to have any credibility with independent voters. There are those of us out ther who still appreciate analysis that does not include one's own personal political emotions.

    November 4, 2008 at 1:13 am |
  36. april

    to sfokc6125: I think you need a boost on your brain power: Senator Obama's mother was born in Kansas...hence...American Citizen. The 7 years you speak of...that is if you are not born in the U.S. or to U.S. citizens, but immigrate here. He was born in Hawaii, 2 years AFTER it became a state, hence he is a natural born citizen. You should really know what your talking about before you spew your garbage. In addition, based on your economic plan (mirrors the Bush plan), if that practice works, why have we lost over 700,000 jobs this year? Why has the gap between income levels increased? Why do Republicans refuse to see that what they support has not worked? Why are they so opposed to any type of change or new ideas?

    November 4, 2008 at 1:12 am |
  37. Zachariah

    Thank You David Gergen for your unbiased expert analysis over the past several months!! I have been watching CNN 10 hours a day awaiting your take on every issue as it emerges!! I have come to love and trust your opinions to the point that i consider them facts. To be honest, im not sure what im going to do post-election of Barack Obama 🙁 You better not go anywhere, i will always find a subject in need of your analysis Mr. Gergen!!!

    November 4, 2008 at 1:07 am |
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