Obama-McCain: some facts and figures
The final results of the US presidential election are not yet in [16 November 2008], but we know enough to highlight some key figures. With 66.7 million popular votes and counting, and with a lead of 6.5 percentage points over John McCain, Barack Obama won more popular votes than any other US presidential candidate in history: nearly 8 million more than John Kerry in 2004, and a cool 15.7m more than Al Gore in 2000 (when Gore won more popular votes than G W Bush, but lost in the Supreme Court – remember?). Obama’s share of the popular vote (52.6%) was the highest of any Democratic candidate since LBJ (1964), and higher than any Republican since 1956 except GWH Bush, Reagan (1984) Nixon (1972) and Eisenhower (1956).
Some suggest that Obama won because many Republicans failed to vote, but the figures scarcely confirm this: John McCain won 58.3m votes (46.1%, comparable with GW Bush in 2000 with 47.9%), 3.8m fewer than GW Bush in 2004 but 7m more than the same Bush in 2000. Each candidate won a very respectable share of the vote, on probably the highest percentage turnout (over 60%) for 40 years. Those who imagine an entire American population transformed by the election into leftish, colour-blind liberals need reminding that Senator McCain, after a policy-lite campaign driven by smears, innuendos and outright lies, and representing the party of the most unpopular President in American history, nevertheless won 58.3 million votes across the country, including an estimated 55% of white voters, taking almost all the mid-west (from Montana and North Dakota southwards) and the south, apart from Colorado, New Mexico and Florida (which Obama narrowly won, 51–49%). Equally sobering, McCain was ahead in the polls until the breaking of the financial crisis and his frivolous selection of Governor Palin as running-mate, two factors that probably lost him the election.
The victory of President Elect Barack Obama is hugely welcome to almost everyone in the outside world, as several polls confirm; but he will have a monumental task in living up to the extraordinary expectations that have been raised as he confronts the challenges of climate change, global recession, world poverty, terrorism and foreign oil dependency, and two unwinnable wars – the poisoned chalice about to be handed to him on 20 January by outgoing President George W Bush.