Make no mistake, Obama turned out to be a terrific candidate, and he ran an exceptional campaign. But let’s look at the perfect storm that Obama had going for him — this is all the stuff that was not within Obama’s control:
- An incumbent of the other party whose popularity had sunk to record lows.
- An opponent who ran an exceptionally badly-organized campaign whose disarray was splayed across front-pages nationwide.
- An opponent who chose Sarah Palin as VP — by which I don’t mean that Palin will never be a good candidate (that’s a separate topic), but simply that she was not a good candidate this time around (that, I think, is not seriously disputable).
- An economic crisis of historic proportions that hit at exactly the right time (the week after the GOP convention).
- An opponent who not only had publicly stated that he didn’t know much about the economy, but who seemingly went out of his way to prove it in the course of his half-assed response to the crisis.
On top of all of that, Obama’s decision to forego public financing led to a cash advantage the likes of which Democrats have never seen. And yet, with all of that, Obama won the popular vote 52.5-46.2, a margin of 6.3 points. Which is to say, with everything Obama had going for him — the external factors, plus his own extraordinary talent as a campaigner and his own first-rate campaign operation, 46.2% of Americans voted for the other guy.
Further, Obama won the electoral college 365-175 (assuming that Obama gets 1 EV from NE and that McCain gets MO). Good numbers, yet Obama won fewer electoral votes than Clinton did in either 1992 (370) or 1996 (379) (and both won fewer than George H.W. Bush in 1988 and Reagan in 1984 and 1980).
What does all of this mean? IMHO, it means that Obama should act fast, and act boldly.