By Scott Tibbs, December 6th, 2004
Final numbers for 2004, from CNN:
|Margin of popular vote advantage for Bush:||3,012,497|
Final numbers for 2000, from CNN:
|Margin of popular vote advantage for Gore:||539,947|
Do these numbers matter? How significant are these vote totals? Should we focus on the percentages for the Bush/Kerry race, rather than the total votes? Is it significant that President Bush won by over three million votes?
I believe the margin of total votes is significant. We heard quite a bit four years ago about Al Gore's margin of victory (in total votes) in the popular vote; we still hear about it today. Gore and Bush basically tied at 49%; a margin of 0.53%. About half a million more voters chose to send Gore to the White House to continue the policies of the previous eight years than chose to go in a different direction. Because of Gore's position as Vice President over the previous eight years, he was (in effect) running as an incumbent.
Bush was running as an incumbent. A majority of the American people voted to continue the policies of the last four years, but four years ago a majority voted against electing Gore as President. In 1996, 51% of the people voted to send President Clinton back to Arkansas.
The reason I think Bush's victory margin of over three million votes is significant is that it is the first time since 1988 when there has been a clear winner, in that Bush got a majority of the vote.
It is also important because the Democratic base was mobilized this year, arguably more mobilized and motivated than they have been in over thirty-six years. I don't think the Democrats will be as mobilized in 2008 over an open seat as they were in 2004 to defeat a sitting President.
While Bush's margin of victory in percentage terms may be small, he got a clear majority of the popular vote, while Clinton (an incumbent in 1996) and Gore (a pseudo-incumbent in 2000) both got less than 50%.
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