stood at 64.9 million, Romney’s at 60.5 million, a margin for Obama of 4.4 million. Some of Romney’s potential votes bled to Libertarian Gary Johnson, who received 739,000 more votes in 2012 than did Libertarian Bob Barr in 2008.
Had Romney held Johnson down to Barr’s 2008 total and added the extra votes for Johnson in 2012 to his column, Romney would have received 61.2 million votes, still 3.7 million short of Obama’s total (Bush received 62 million votes in 2004). Obama dropped 4.6 million votes between 2008 and 2012, but Romney plus Johnson’s margin over Barr’s 2008 total added up to only 1.3 million votes more than McCain received in 2008. Most of those who left Obama avoided supporting the Republican and Libertarian candidates.
Conservatives were surprised by the “RealClearPolitics” (RCP) average of polls failure to predict the election margin, though the average did show Obama winning. The final RCP average had Obama up by just 0.7%. Obama won by 3.5%, a difference of 2.8%.
The RCP averages for the “toss up” states--North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, and Ohio, Romney’s “must win” states, plus New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Colorado, and Nevada--showed Obama winning 8 of the 10. He won 9. Obama’s average victory margin in these 10 “toss up” states, according to the RCP poll average, was 1.7%. Obama won the 10 by an overall average of 4.0%, a difference of 2.4%. No single state average was off by more than 3.9%. Missing by 2.4% on the 10 “toss up” state average, and 2.8% on the national total overall, represents a consistent underestimation of the Obama campaign's actual strength.
The New York Times’ polling guru Nate Silver nailed Obama's 51% winning total. He also won praise for getting 50 of 50 states right, though the “RealClearPolitics” average of state polls called 49 of 50 right, missing only on Florida, which Obama carried by just 75,000 votes out of 8.5 million cast. And Silver, as a “Slate” article noted, did incorrectly predict some U.S. senate races, a slightly less than full-genius performance.
Comment: Obama overperformend because he was a minority candidate running against a rich, white guy. Caring for "minorities"--including unmarried women, liberals, and young people--overcame as an issue criticism of Obama's poor job performance. "He's one of us and we forgive him for trying and coming up short." Obama's campaign also followed the book on Bush's 2004 triumph over Kerry: forget the middle, bring out your own base in remarkable numbers, and destroy your opponent, thus driving down his base support.
The Obama campaign reached new levels of success in finding its base voters and getting them to vote--a good reason polls underestimated the end result. Finally, Obama out-spent Romney. It's devastating for a Republican, already at a disadvantage in the media wars, to have less advertising money.