Barack Obama’s election victory turned out to be clearer than the headlines preceding it suggested. Nevertheless, the suspense beforehand was justified; whoever believes that Obama’s reelection was at no point in danger is allowing himself to be blinded by the marked distribution of the electoral votes. To be ahead of the challenger by only 2.3 percentage points in the “popular vote” (all votes cast) is a historically narrow lead for the reelection of a U.S. president. In view of the fact that Obama’s first term of office was overshadowed by the economic crisis, more was not to be expected. To the contrary: A decade ago, the Republicans would have exploited such a point of attack and delivered a certain defeat to the incumbent. Only Franklin D. Roosevelt was reelected (in 1936) with such a high rate of unemployment.
Why did Obama win so decisively? It would be too easy to explain his victory with the tensions among the Republicans. Even if there are differing ideas there about the right course: Against their common foe Obama, tea party members and country club Republicans were pulling together. Mitt Romney was also not the greatest weak point of his campaign. He cannot have earned 48.1 percent of the popular vote and been as bad as it was readily represented to us. Even the demographic development giving minorities like the Latinos more importance is no valid excuse for Romney’s clear defeat. Latinos, of all people, are more likely to have a more conservative world view, which George W. Bush knew to capitalize on. Naturally, all of these factors have an influence on Obama’s ability to win under the worst circumstances. The secret of his success becomes apparent only after a look at the election-deciding states.
If a campaign wins eight of the nine swing states in a close election, that isn’t due to luck, good tactics or even the underlying circumstances (that were anything but favorable for Obama): Whoever wins eight of nine games is simply vastly superior. The superiority of Obama’s campaign lies in the successful connection between the high-tech possibilities of the 21st century and grassroots work. In the background, data specialists worked on constantly precise micro-targeting that supplied voters with customized messages. At the intersection of the data world and real life lie social media, through which supporters can be located and mobilized. In the foreground are such traditional campaign methods as door-to-door canvassing, which give the image of a movement from below. Only with these methods could Obama forge a coalition of voters that united highly diverse groups: young voters, academics, unmarried women, ethnic minorities — a coalition that has demographic development on its side.