Benchmarks for Barack

Forget racial identity, there are other benchmarks by which to judge the results tonight.

By Thomas Schaller
Published November 4, 2008 11:43PM (UTC)
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Presuming the previous 100-plus national polls leading up to today are not totally out of whack, Barack Obama is going to win today.

If so and, presumably, he does so by garning something north of 50 percent of the national popular vote, how significant will that result be?

Some benchmarks to consider:

  1. If Obama gets above 50.1 percent, it will be the highest percentage for a Democratic nominee since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
  2. If Obama surpasses 53.4 percent nationally, he will post the highest popular vote share for any nonincumbent candidate of either party since 1952 -- and if he can somehow push that figure over 55.2 percent, he will be able to boast the highest share for a nonincumbent president since 1932.
  3. Unless he finishes second, or somehow the national turnout dips under 125 million (both campaigns expect at least 130 million, with Obama's team projecting a number still higher than that), Obama will receive more votes for president than any candidate in presidential history.
  4. Among winning candidates, and presuming record turnout rates by African-Americans and projected performance rates among and expected growth of the Hispanic vote, Obama should win a higher share of nonwhite votes than any major-party candidate (winner or loser) in history.

In addition to all the focus on his identity as the potential first nonwhite president, Obama would become:

  • The first president born in one of the non-continental 48 states.
  • The first president whose surname ends in a vowel that isn't a "y" or a silent "e."
  • The first president elected from the post-Vietnam generation.
  • The third president in a row who is left-handed. (The same would be true for John McCain.)
  • Only the third sitting senator to be elected president, and the first since 1960. (Again, the same would be true for John McCain.)

Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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