Conservatives Can’t Win at the Negotiating Table What They Lost at the Ballot Box

Conservatives can’t win at the negotiating table what they lost at the ballot box.

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President Barack Obama waves to supporters after his victory speech on election night.

The final, final results from the 2012 presidential election are now in. While we already knew President Obama won (and the House certified that result today when it tallied the electoral votes), it's worth revisiting the final totals and reminding ourselves of one important fact: It wasn't particularly close.

Sure the election was widely expected to be a nail-biter, but it wasn't. But in the days and weeks afterward you still heard the occasional GOPer insist that it was—see Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling last month saying it was a tight, 51-49 race, for example.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]

Here are some final stats about Obama's victory, courtesy of Bloomberg's Greg Giroux:

  • Obama got 51.1 percent of the popular vote to Mitt Romney's 47.2 percent, a four point margin. (Let's all pause for a moment and savor the fact that history will show that Romney won … 47 percent.) That's a wider margin than George W. Bush won by in 2004 (51-48), when pundits on the right like Charles Krauthammer declared that he had earned a mandate.
  • That makes Obama the first president to crack 51 percent two elections in a row since Dwight Eisenhower more than a half-century ago. (Sorry, conservatives, Ronald Reagan only reached 50.75 percent in 1980.)
  • Obama won 26 states and the District of Columbia, piling up 332 electoral votes. You can think of it another way: There is no state in Obama's column which would have swung the election to Romney had he won it. In other words, if Romney had pulled a stunning upset and won California's 55 electoral votes … he'd still have lost.
  • There were only four especially close states in the 2012 election. Only Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia were decided by less than 5 percentage points. (Note: Romney won one of them, North Carolina; had he swept those four states … he'd have still lost the election as Obama totaled 272 electoral votes in the rest of the country.) Four is the smallest number of close states in a presidential election since Reagan trounced Walter Mondale nearly 30 years ago.
  • [Read the U.S. News Debate: Does Barack Obama Have a Mandate?]

    So no matter how you slice or dice the election results, this was not a close race. It wasn't a landslide, but it wasn't a coin flip. The voters selected Obama and his vision over Romney and his, and they did it decisively.

    And you can layer onto that the fact that, against all expectations, Democrats picked up seats in the U.S. Senate and also in the U.S. House. And while the GOP did retain control of the House, nearly 1.4 million more people voted for Democratic House candidates than for Republicans. 1.4 million—remember that figure the next time someone says Americans voted for divided government last year.

    All of which brings me to a great point that the Maddow Blog's Steve Benen made yesterday. He noted that South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham vowed that the upcoming fiscal fights, over raising the debt ceiling at the end of February and over funding the government a few weeks later, would be "one hell of a contest about the direction and vision of this country."

    [See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

    Benen writes:

    …what Graham and too many of his allies seem to forget is that we already had "one hell of a contest about the direction and the vision of this country."

    It was a little something called "the 2012 election cycle," and though Graham may not have liked the results, his side lost.

    Memories can be short in DC, but for at least a year, voters were told the 2012 election would be the most spectacularly important, history-changing, life-setting election any of us have ever seen...

    Election Day 2012, in other words, was for all the marbles. It was the big one. The whole enchilada was on the line. The results would set the direction of the country for a generation, so it was time to pull out all the stops and fight like there's no tomorrow—because for the losers, there probably wouldn't be one.

    [See 2012: The Year in Cartoons.]

    Obama won. Republicans lost. And, again, it wasn't especially close.

    So it is not only tiresome but more than a little undemocratic for conservatives to suggest that, having lost at the ballot box, they should be able to dictate the direction and vision of the country at the negotiating table.

    • Read Peter Roff: The Winner of Republican Bickering Is President Obama
    • Read Brad Bannon: GOP Assault on Unions Will Prove Costly
    • Check out U.S. News Weekly, now available on iPad.
    • Corrected on : Corrected on 1/9/13: An earlier version of this blog post mischaracterized how many presidents in the last 50 years have gotten more than 51 percent of the vote. President Obama became the first president since Eisenhower to get at least 51 percent of the vote twice in a row.