Video: Todd breaks down election results

updated 11/5/2008 1:17:41 PM ET 2008-11-05T18:17:41

Barack Obama's decisive victory wasn't a shocker, per se. But inside his historic win are some fascinating numbers that made Tuesday night (and Wednesday morning) an interesting, and surprising, spectacle to behold. Obama pulled off a monumental achievement, but not necessarily in the way you'd think.

Most notably, Obama managed to defeat John McCain without generating a significantly higher percentage of black voters than John Kerry turned out four years ago, according to exit polls. Nationally, black voter turnout was 13 percent, a modest jump from 11 percent in 2004. He seemed to carry North Carolina despite a drop of 4 percentage points in black voter turnout there. He became the first Democrat to win Virginia since 1964 despite the fact that the same percentage of black voters turned out Tuesday as did in 2004 (21 percent).

Obama also became the nation's 44th president without a notable uptick in the percentage of that highly vaunted crop of voters between the ages of 18 and 29. Young voters made up 18 percent of the electorate Tuesday, which marked only a slight uptick from 17 percent in 2004. (That said, Obama did carry every age group other than those 65 and older).

While McCain led Obama among white voters by 12 points, polls showed, Obama built an impressive multiracial coalition that included 95 percent of black voters and a 2-1 advantage among all other races, including Latinos, Asians and others. He also narrowly edged out McCain among men and won by a sizable 13-point margin among women.

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Obama and McCain ran about even among late deciders, which defied expectations that undecided voters would break heavily for McCain.

Obama also managed to unify his party's base and, with the help of Hillary Rodham Clinton's active support over the past five months, drew heavily among voters who supported her in the Democratic primary. Despite predictions that their extended primary battle would leave Obama with a hopelessly divided party, he carried 82 percent of Clinton's supporters on Tuesday; just 17 percent broke ranks for McCain. This was particularly helpful for Obama in Pennsylvania, where Clinton trounced Obama in the Democratic primary. Seventy-nine percent of her supporters went for Obama there.

Video: Obama flips Bush counties in Florida Still, McCain deserves credit for a respectable showing and dodging the full-on disaster his party could have faced. How did he achieve that? One word: "Maverick."

While Obama made a strong case tying McCain to President Bush, McCain was able to cut loose some of that dead weight by distancing himself from Bush over the campaign's final weeks. McCain won a striking 31 percent of voters who said they disapprove of Bush, including 16 percent of voters who said they "strongly disapprove" of Bush. (In 2000, by way of comparison, Al Gore carried just 9 percent of voters who disapproved of Bill Clinton.) McCain also won 36 percent of voters who said they felt the country was heading in the wrong direction.

But ultimately, while he may have achieved some distance from Bush, McCain drew less support from key groups than Bush did four years ago. McCain led white men by 16 points and white women by 7 points. In '04, Bush won white men by 25 points and white women by 11 points.

And Obama, in the end, drew a full 17 percent of Bush '04 voters -- compared with 9 percent of Kerry voters who backed McCain.

Copyright 2012 by National Journal Group Inc.


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