November 5th, 2008
11:05 AM ET

Obama's election by the numbers

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/11/05/art.obama.elex.bigscreen.jpg caption="President-elect Barack Obama looks out into the crowd after his acceptance speech at Grant Park in Chicago"]
John P. Avlon
AC360° Contributor

First things first: Today is a great day for America. We have a new President of the United States. Behind that remarkable fact are the statistical trends and milestones that made Barack Obama's election possible. So take a second to study the numbers so you can sound smarter in election-related conversation, or just get some perspective to further appreciate this moment.

By winning 52 percent of the popular vote, Barack Obama joined the ranks of FDR and LBJ in being the only Democratic presidents to get more than 51 percent of the popular vote in the past 100 years. Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton never cleared that hurdle. That's an achievement in itself.

In many ways, last night was a step towards realignment. A few days ago I posted an analysis of six swing counties that could determine the election's outcome. Barack Obama carried each and every one by a margin close to 10 points. Obama won the swing voters in the swing counties in the swing states that he needed to win this election. 

Amid record turnout, Obama was able to build a broad coalition reminiscent of Bobby Kennedy's mythic 1968 campaign. He appealed especially to students, voters under 40, African-Americans and Latinos. He split middle class voters with McCain but won moderates by 60 percent and independents by a 5 point margin. And while his victory is not a liberal ideological mandate, it is a mandate for a change away from the polarized politics of our recent past. 

American's hope and faith have been invested not just in the figure of Barack Obama but in his essential message of transcending old divides in our politics between left and right, black and white, red states and blue states. 

The fact that Obama, as the first African-American nominee, was able to win the swing states and put red states in play including those in the South, such as Virginia and (it looks like) North Carolina demonstrates the historic success of his election outreach. The Democrat's 50-state strategy has broadened and changed the electoral map. Now those shifts must be reinforced.

It's said that you campaign in poetry but govern in prose.  Now begins the time for President-elect Obama to begin making cabinet appointments and announcing policy priorities that reinforce the inclusive and essentially centrist nature of his realigning victory.

Filed under: 2008 Election • Barack Obama • John P. Avlon
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. cindy cuffage

    Our Go-Bama Train

    Now that we Americans have realized the human race is not the race of one human, but a journey best traveled together, we can work with and join a true leader. As we move forward I remain breathless with the notion of my granddaughters, voting sixteen years from now, choosing without any hindrance or preconceived ideas.

    Cindy Cuffage
    North Port, Florida

    November 5, 2008 at 3:47 pm |
  2. Joanne Stanislaus

    After standing on my feet continuously from 5am – 9pm as a Political Observer yesterday and being a part of this Historic Event we must all leave all excuses behind and start a new chapter in our individual lives .

    My deepest pray is that our young men ( Trevon age 16) will be empowered to raise the bar of Excellence and Believe that there is nothing that they can not achieve ……………..if only he believe.

    That Hard work , Decency , The desire to Win , and the urge to reach ONES fill potential must come from within . Remembering that …there is no room for Mediocrity especially when we are surrounded by so many great opportunities. If we seek them . For we can now truly believe "That all me are created equal"

    Embrace this as your daily platform and success will be inevitable .

    No room for Mediocrity !

    All men must take a more profound role in our future, by being that continued example for us all . That Example set by our next President Barack Obama . . Yes you can !

    November 5, 2008 at 3:24 pm |
  3. Begum Zuaib-un-Hassab ,California

    The world is at awe about our new President elect Barak Obama. The people that voted for him have re-introduced to the world that anything is possible. Obama has shattered the glass that held back people of color, the history books will look at this defining moment and will respect the suffering of Americans of color that felt the pain, humilation and discrimination at the hand of their slave masters.
    It will bring peace to the souls of those who were lynched, persecuted and isolated. It will bring tears of joy to the young people that voted their conscience for the sins of their forefathers who were the slave owners.
    Barak Obama has elevated this country to heal its views of discrimination although there are large pockets who haven't felt the change. We need to have sympathy and pray for them so they can view the rest of us not by the color of our skins but by the quality if our souls.
    To Mr. Barak's Grandmother, who views her Grandson victory witht the angels. thank you to her and her daughter for sharing this wonderful man. On this earth we the mothers of America, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Arabs, catholics will now take over and protect your son from the naysayers and the racist..
    We congratulate his wife and children for being able to share with us a grand moment that bring us our kness in admiaration.

    November 5, 2008 at 2:42 pm |
  4. Rachel

    No one can argue with the numbers. He got both the popular votes and the electorial votes. He is truly amazing and I feel we will not be unsatisfied. He is articulate and brilliant. He may not have been born in a manger as he said but....I think he is our breath of fresh air and savior when we needed him most. God Bless America & Obama.

    November 5, 2008 at 2:29 pm |
  5. Seema

    Barack Obama deserves the position he has been given by the people of the United States of America and all around the world, Barack Obama is like God himself and why i say this is because is words are well said and spoken and passed on to people to come out and support him, Barack Obama didn't fight the way John Mccain did by pointing fingers just because he wants to be president, Barack Obama spent less time arguing against the Mccain Campaign and pointing fingures and i think a lot of poeple admired that about him instead he spent his time in his own campaign making ideas how to save America and recreate this America and give us all our dreams, We are looking forward to our new CHANGE from Barack Obama. God will always help him in his worstest situation.

    November 5, 2008 at 1:53 pm |
  6. Joel Martin

    So Senator Obama is elected, and like our Commander-In-Chief-Elect said last night, "...Now is the time to come together...", I encourage all of my family, friends, old classmates, and everyone in America, that while you might not have agreed with everything Senator Obama said or stood for, that we join as citizens of this great country, and work together to help this Country back on its feet. McCain's motto was "Country First", and as we heard in his speech last night, "...And I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face...", it is time that 'We the People' put our affiliations and party lines to the side, and put Our Country first.

    I support Senator Obama because I believed the words he spoke, and like any voter in any election, I hope that I am not let down, only time will tell. But whether it becomes four years of the same, or four years of hope and prosperity, the one thing that I am grateful for most, is that through the Power and Guidance of God, our Nation was able to join together, and over come America's past aggressions in relation to race and segregation, and make history by electing the first African-American President. That single act right there, is indeed a reminder that we live in the best Country on Earth, where anyone's hope or dreams, have a chance to become reality.

    In closing, I would like to thank one past President, that in his own way, went against the wishes of a Union, and because of him, it allowed America to turn the page and start a new chapter of American History. That President was Abraham Lincoln, and I hope that the same can be accomplished during President-Elect Obama's time in office.

    November 5, 2008 at 1:32 pm |
  7. Mark

    I think that it's great that Obama has won, I voted for him. The problem that I am seeing on CNN and other news programs is that every one is interviewing "Black Americans" or "African Americans". I'm afraid that the news will only serve the two sides (white and black) and the middle has been left out. Where are the Chinese, Mexican, Japanese, "Americans" They are missing from all the channels and I'm afraid that they will be left out for the next 4 and possibly 8 years?

    November 5, 2008 at 1:11 pm |
  8. Leah Farrell

    This is a historic moment in our country and I'm glad to have been a part of it. I'm a white woman who all along saw something different in Barack that this country needs....a stand in bringing this great country back together again.
    Although I had started to receive numerous emails from the Barack web site, I blocked them from sending more. I wasn't going to be "persuaded" to a vote. I'm an intelligent person who can make up my own mind and have done so by casting my vote for Barack Obama.
    I'm am glad that finally, the haze of the Civil War has been broken and that the United States of America has come into a time where race isn't a factor for any decision.
    It's time for a change and I believe that change will come with Barack Obama.......a long, overdue change that will once again "Unite" the United States of America.

    November 5, 2008 at 1:01 pm |
  9. Sharon Kitchen

    Mr Avlon,
    One group of voters only mentioned by Obama are all the Native American voters, that turned out and voted for him. The Crow Nation also adopted him.

    Way to go..... President -elect Obama and Vice President elect Biden.

    November 5, 2008 at 12:56 pm |
  10. jam9876

    I am surprised no one is talking more about Georgia. McCain won 52-47, but the state was nearly completely ignored by both candidates. I believe with that small of a margin of victory if Obama had devoted a little time to the state, it could have become another battleground. Perhaps, it will be a future battleground state. The pundits just wrote Ga. off as a red state, but when an african-american receives 47% of the vote in a southern, republican state- that deserves attention whether it becomes a battleground or not.

    November 5, 2008 at 12:49 pm |
  11. Gene Penszynski from Vermont

    Having been involved in the Reagan campaign of 1980 as a Republican I can see some similarities to this campaign now as a Democrat.I believe in a pendulum theory of American Democracy. As a nation we have a way of swinging to the outer reaches of left or right before we begin to correct ourselves. In 1980 it was repudiation of the excessive left leaning policies of Jimmy Carter. This time is was clear repudiation of the extreme Right Wing dogma of G W Bush.
    Like the election of 1980 I firmly believe that this is a Watershed event. Not because President-elect Obama is a man of color but because Mr. Obama is a man of vision and good sense (like Ronald Reagan) who will lay the ground work for a much needed pendulum swing away from the extreme right this time around.
    The 'Obama revolution' has begun a fundamental reversal of American political thought and action toward greater govenment oversite and protection of our basic human rights and interests in much the same way that the 'Reagan Revolution' began a movement toward less government involvment in society.
    In my life I have suffered through both the extremes of Jimmy Carter and G W Bush. I have no fond memories of either situation and I welcome the movement back toward the Center that President Obama will preside over.
    Over the last eight years in particular the action of our government have become so incredibly hurtful, divisive and and downright harmful . Greed was substituted as a definition of 'Capitalism'. Fear and hatred and repression became a pseudonym for 'freedom'. Extreme Right Wing Christian Religious Dogma became the basis for 'Morality'. Thats all going to change now THANK GOD ! We're on our way back to SANITY once again. The American people and the WHOLE WORLD can now breath a deep sigh of relief knowing that the America of FDR and John Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln is on the rise. An America of KINDNESS and TRUTH and FAIRNESS and RIGHTEOUSNESS. A SECULAR PEACE LOVING INTERNATIONAL LAW ABIDING AMERICA whose only interest is in the stability and harmony of the peoples of the world is coming to teh world stage on January 20, 2009. Just hang in there everyone everywhere in the world we're on our way. It's going to be a great time to be living in. The worse is slowly retreating in history's rear view mirror. The best is just ahead !

    November 5, 2008 at 12:41 pm |
  12. Lucia Jones

    I voted for the wrong man in 2004. It was a hasty vote. My mind was set on voting Republican and that was that.

    Something in my heart was telling me to read the facts, before I voted. Something was telling me that maybe it was the wrong thing to do, and so on. Of course, I listened to none of my intuitions and thought; well if it is the wrong vote, what damage can it do? My vote is just one of millions.

    Now looking back, I was not proud of my decision. I did not wear the t-shirt. I did not get the button or the bumper sticker. Only a few people knew of my selection. The “It’s private” spilled out of my mouth when I was not sure if it was going to be well accepted.

    As soon as President Bush was elected for a second term, I panicked. I panicked but stayed true to my wit and defended my vote. I was giving the sitting President a chance to fix it. Just fix it, I hoped!

    From then on and out of pure remorse, I started paying attention. CNN, Time Magazine, Huffington post, Fox Channel, and others became my study tools. Slowly I questioned everything. This became the beginning of my liberal awareness. The more I read and listened, the more I learned. The more I felt in touch with myself, the more I regretted my support for this President.

    This election time, I sat by myself and studied the candidates as they started out of the shoot. I listened to everyone, questioned everything, and weighed the facts against each other. I paid attention.

    Giving up the label of "Republican" would be a more difficult transition. Even a few weeks ago, I was still calling myself a “Republican for Obama.”

    In the end, I feel I made the right decision this time. I never saw the color of his skin or mine; I never fell for the ignorance of the negative attacks. I did not follow the crowd. I followed my own knowledge and my own convictions.

    Every single day, we are persuaded by one thing or another . Like cattle, we panic and follow towards what we think is the right path. By not questioning the decision to follow, we sometimes end up over a cliff.

    I am still not sure if I am a Democrat or Independent or even a Republican. All I know is that I am an American and that my vote counts. My vote counted once again and because I made an informed decision, I regret nothing this time.

    Lucia Jones
    Silverdale Washington

    November 5, 2008 at 12:40 pm |
  13. Frieda

    MONEY elected this man!

    After two years of campainging and spending $600 MILLION+...Obama got 52% of the vote, compare to 51% Bush in 2004!! hmmm

    that $600 million got him about 900,000 more votes.!!!!

    so the next president has to raise $1 BILLION to get the white house back?

    Is public financing dead? is this what America want to model...buying white house with lots and lots of money...hmmm

    Will media cover this issue at all?

    November 5, 2008 at 12:23 pm |
  14. michael fredrick

    Please read carefully. This is going to be DEEP....... I voted for Obama because his hunger to bring change was greater than what was seen in McCain. (not to mention Palin) I also applaud the choice that these americans have made, but, I have a fear as well. The fear comes from a very simple and obvious place. Pay close attention to what I say. Please! It has been shown that there were over 60 million "NEW" registered voters. Mostly african-americans. These and already registered voter african-americans are looking at Obama to be their "messiah" and to lift the "black man" from the darkness of their past. Most of the african-americans in the US are a simple people. A people who have absolutely no idea how the government of the US works. A simple people entrenched in poverty and who choose to live in the underbelly of this country. They look to Obama to strike down the mighty "white man" and to take back something they feel that has been taken away from them many years ago. To make up for the oppression that was handed them many generations ago. Not unlike that of trying to take back the oppression the Jews suffered under the "Nazi regime". As if the country of Germany could ever do that. You follow me?? It would be the same as if a "Jew" was given the position of running the country of Germany. The Germans may (as a whole) feel very bad about what had happened under Hitler's rule, but, could there ever be anything to give back?? In the US (as a whole) we feel very bad about what we did to the black people in slavery of the civil war days, but, could there ever be anything to give back?? You follow me?? For this one reason I feel that there will be a great disappointment in the african-american people as they look to Obama to bring them to the "proverbial promised land" and this, (THIS!) will never happen. As a president I think that Obama will accomplish great good for this country but "I" saw his as the lesser of two evils.( he is not perfect ) I look to him for what he can do for this country not for what he can do for any one ethnic group within the country. I do not consider myself as a racist but a realist. If the african-american group in this country after a while are not satisfied in Obama because he could not deliver what they are looking for, it could cause such a civil unrest not seen since our civil war or even our revolutionary war and could cause a seperation within this country that may change not only the US but the world.

    November 5, 2008 at 12:21 pm |
  15. amlm

    What a wonderful day! But we need to stop with all the labels. Labels are used to hurt others. My generation doesn't care who you kiss or how well you tan. Terms like "black" or "gay" or even "Joe six pack" are used to hurt others. Obama is just as much white as he is black. Who cares? What matters is your integrity, whether you take care of problems rather than create them, whether you help out rather than take away, whether you look for the good rather then bring out the bad. Obama is a leader. We haven't had one in a long while. He will do what is right. Let's stop all the labeling! (I would love to see Hillary Clinton appointed to the Supreme Court.)

    November 5, 2008 at 12:11 pm |
  16. Brianne, Kingsville, Texas

    Last night was one of the greatest nights in my life. I am only 24 years old but have grown up hearing the difficulties my family faced years ago.

    My father was given many setbacks when he first entered into the Navy - where he eventually retired as a Chief after 22 years of service. My mother was told that she would never be anything - yet is now getting read to graduate with her Master's degree specializing in reading.

    Watching Obama win with a greater number of popular votes REALLY shocked me. It helped me see that America is ready to change this country and I am very proud!

    John McCain's service has supported my decision to enter into the military so that I can serve my country. Even though he did not get my vote, he ended his campaign with grace, honor and integrity.

    I wish that my grandfather could have seen this moment...

    AMERICA '08

    November 5, 2008 at 12:07 pm |
  17. Susan

    This was a revenge election. The American people were not going to put a Republican in the White House again, so no matter who the Democrat was, they were voting for him. By the way, Obama is a "Bi-RACIAL" candidate and it's an insult to his White family that you keep calling him African American. This needs to be straightened out in the public and by the media and by Obama. It's a shame that is has to come down to a racial thing by the African American people in this country and that they DO NOT See the White side of Obama. So who really are the racists?

    November 5, 2008 at 12:02 pm |
  18. darcy obrien

    Congadulations USA! Welcome back to planet earth!

    Darcy OBrien – Toronto

    November 5, 2008 at 11:59 am |
  19. Dr. John Kinloch

    At 11pm Eastern time last night, sitting in the Hudson Valley,
    I heard a Grand old Lady who stands with a torch held high
    in NYC, breath a Huge sigh of Relief. I think I heard her say,' YES WE DID!'
    A New Begining for ALL Americans!

    November 5, 2008 at 11:47 am |
  20. Cindy

    Obama may have won by 52% popular vote but he still has to contend with the 48% that hated him and also of the ones that voted for him 50% only did so because of Bush and the economy not because they liked Obama. So he still has a long row to hoe to prove that he is not just another democratic hack. That is going to be hard to do since he only ever voted with his party. This nation voted him in because he said he would change things. Now lets see how how well he keeps his promises. If he renigs on one promise he will forever be a liar in most peoples eyes.


    November 5, 2008 at 11:15 am |