Ed: Seems like this was a shortly after the election draft that was lost in the shuffle. So I’m setting it up to post while I’m on vacation. Go Technology!
Those stats about the electoral margin that Obama won are heavily influenced by the absence of real third party candidates this year. He won 52 percent of the vote, more than any Democrat won since 1964 & more than any non-incumbent won since 1952.
Give Clinton half of Ross Perot’s voters (statistics suggest he would’ve gotten at least that much, afaik), and he wins 52.5% of the vote in 1992, and 53.5% in 1996. In 1980, non-incumbent Reagan won 50.7% with Jon Bayard Anderson taking 6.6% of the vote while running as a conservative independent, and Ed Clark taking 1.1% as a libertarian.
The most plausible explanation for the lack of serious third party candidates isn’t Obama, but Bush’s polarizing influence–Nader ran at almost identical figures to his 2004 performance, when he was competing against the much more moderate John Kerry. One surprise for me was Bob Barr’s poor numbers. I’d have thought that John McCain would’ve driven many libertarian minded Republicans away from the party. Anecdotal evidence suggests many of them may have voted for Obama, but that’s a really surprising fact.
I don’t want to minimize the extent of the win or argue that this means Obama lacks a “mandate”–whatever that might be. I’m just emphasizing that the major political parties are very good at what they do–splitting votes down the middle.
More fun facts: the average post 1960 presidential election had the victor receiving 387 votes, in comparison to Obama’s 365. And the numbers are not just driven by the 1980-1988 slaughterfest–Clinton had 370 and 379.