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Defying Expectations, Obama Handily Wins Popular Vote

It looks like President Obama won the popular vote after all.

For weeks, as Mitt Romney climbed in the polls after the first presidential debate, we heard predictions that the election results could be split—Obama could win the electoral college while Romney took the popular vote. Even before Nov. 6, this was prompting calls for the country to come together and finally abolish the antiquated electoral college system, a relic from an era when the Founding Fathers didn’t trust the unwashed wretches—white men—that made up the U.S. population enough to entrust something as important as the presidential election to them.

Well, none of that craziness transpired. Obama’s win was complete. As of this morning, it appears that the president received 59,584,123 votes, compared to Romney’s tally of 56,961,230. For those who don’t want to pull out the cellphone calculators, that’s a margin of 2,622,893 votes. Percentage-wise, Obama won 50.3 percent of the nation’s vote, while Romney got 48.1 percent—a margin of 2.2 percent, which was bigger than JFK’s edge over Nixon in 1960, Nixon’s edge over Hubert Humphrey in 1968, Jimmy Carter’s edge over Gerald Ford in 1976, and, of course, Al Gore’s edge over George Bush in 2000.

It’s certainly not a popular vote landslide, but it’s a comfortable enough margin for the president to claim a rather decisive victory—particularly when combined with an electoral college tally of at least 303 (Florida still isn’t finished counting, though it appears that Obama will win Florida’s 29 electoral votes because he had an edge of 45,000 votes as of this morning, with most of the still uncounted votes in Democratic-leaning areas). If he gets Florida too, Obama would have 332 electoral votes to Romney’s 206, which is more than most prediction models expected for the president.

The fact that Obama received over 50 percent of the popular vote is especially significant. Combined with the 52.87 percent of the popular vote that Obama got in 2008, this year’s total of 50.3 percent means that Obama is just the second Democratic president in more than a century to win re-election with more than 50 percent of the vote in both of his elections. (Franklin Roosevelt was the other one who did it, winning over 50 percent four times.)

Clinton got less than 50 percent of the vote in both of his elections, as did Woodrow Wilson in both of his.

It is an astounding accomplishment for the nation’s first black president—especially in a time when most observers feel the nation’s political landscape is more divided than it’s ever been. What pushed Obama to this historic achievement was the support of people of color—African Americans and Latinos who turned out in enormous waves for the 44th president.

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