A black man cannot become president of the United States for many years yet. This has been an established truth for anyone who has meant anything about American politics since the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. Although Obama clearly led the polls throughout October, until election day he was warned about the “Bradley effect” (see facts) – that white voters say they want to vote for a black candidate, but then do the opposite – and that it could cost Obama the election victory. But he won the election, and on January 20, he takes over as US president.
- How did Obama manage to win the election?
- What challenges does he now face?
- How does he intend to meet the challenges?
2: Two years of election campaign
Obama’s election victory is historic in a number of ways. Many expected that the nomination battle in the Democratic Party would create history. But the party leadership and most people expected that the new thing would be for a woman – Hillary Clinton – to become a presidential candidate. When the outsider Obama actually managed to win the Democratic nomination, it is partly due to his clear profile as an early opponent of the Iraq war , and partly to a much better organization of the campaign.
The widespread opposition to the Iraq war in the Democratic Party gave Obama a chance, and through broad grassroots mobilization, especially in the states that nominated through party team meetings, the campaign was able to seize the opportunity. The Clinton campaign had expected an easy victory and never managed to regain the organizational lead established by the Obama campaign.
In retrospect, it may seem that the election campaign against the Republican candidate McCain was decided before it started, even though Obama’s first trump card from the primary election – the Iraq war – did not play much of a role. From early June until the election, McCain led the polls for just a few days immediately after the Republican National Convention in early September.
Historically , voters tend to vote against a party that has had the president for eight years, especially when the economy is perceived as weak and the incumbent president is unpopular . Both of these factors were evident in 2008 and were only reinforced the closer we got to the election. The election of Sarah Palin as McCain’s vice presidential candidate also turned out to be in Obama’s favor.
Obama also showed his own ability to excite . This combined with a well-functioning and technologically advanced election campaign apparatus made it possible for his campaign to raise record sums of money. The money was partly used to buy huge amounts of advertising, partly to finance a larger election campaign machine than anything ever seen before in the United States, a country located in North America according to estatelearning. In retrospect, there is also relatively broad agreement that the Obama campaign was the best in a generation.
3: A historic victory?
The election winner was convincing. The end result shows that Obama won by 7.3% (52.9 – 45.6) on a national basis, or with just over 9.5 million votes. This was about as the most used polls estimated. Some Bradley effect it was not a question of. More important than the percentage support, however, is the number of voters , and here too Obama clearly won, 365-173.
Obama was the first Democratic candidate since 1964 (Lyndon B. Johnson) to receive over 50% of the vote, and he won the biggest victory for a Democratic candidate who has not been president since 1932 (Franklin Delano Roosevelt).
AREAS : Obama went ahead in the most e voter groups and in about 75% of US counties (select voting shifts and 04. County: about which county within each state). The only area where he consistently did worse than Kerry in 2004 was in the inner southern states. Some areas and voter groups still stand out. George W. Bush won Indiana by 21% in 2004, while Obama won the state by 1% in 2008, a change of 22%.
Other states where Kerry lost and Obama won also had large fluctuations, such as North Carolina with 13%, Nevada with 15, New Mexico with 16 and Colorado and Virginia, both with 14%. Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana were the only states where McCain did better than Bush. Regionally, Obama’s progress in the mountainous states in the west was crucial. Does this bid for a lasting turn in democratic favor in this area?
VOTERS : It is well known (and predicted) that Obama won about 95% of the African-American vote. In both Virginia and North Carolina, progress in this group helped secure Obama’s victory. This group of voters still tends to vote predominantly democratic. Obama had really great progress among them
- voters with a Spanish-American background (so-called Hispanics or Latinos),
- first-time voters and young voters in general (the two groups are partly overlapping),
- high-income voters and
- voters with relatively low education.
Obama only went back (compared to Kerry) among voters who decided just before election day, among voters in small towns and among gays. For future elections, it is especially worth noting the support among Latinos and young people, groups that Kerry won about 55-45 four years ago, but which Obama won about 66-33 this time. Latinos are the fastest growing population in the United States, so the combination of strong support in this group and among young voters bodes well for Democrats, especially when we add that Obama strengthened the Democrats’ grip on female voters.
It also does not seem as if the Obama enthusiasm has subsided significantly after the election. The immediate reactions from the rest of the world were overwhelmingly positive, and even political opponents within the United States stopped and marked the historic part of Obama’s victory. About 70% of the American population has a positive impression of Obama, and about as many believe that he has handled the transition period (the so-called transition) between the election and the inauguration – January 20, 2009 – in a good way.