With the tabulating of the popular vote in the presidential election nearly complete, Taegan Goddard has a line this morning that rings true: "The election was close but not really."
That sounds about right. President Obama finished with 332 electoral votes -- more than 60% of the available total -- which points to a clear victory. And what of the popular vote? As of this morning, there are still some votes on the West Coast and Arizona to be counted, but Obama has about 62.3 million votes, while Mitt Romney stands at about 58.9 million votes. In percentage terms, that's 50.6% to 47.9%.
Given the number of outstanding votes remaining in California, we may yet see Obama's popular vote margin go from 2.7% to 3%, but that's roughly where things currently stand.
I mention this because there was some question last week about whether Obama's 2012 totals would fall short of George W. Bush's totals. They did not. This year, the Democratic president topped his predecessor in raw popular vote and electoral votes -- and this applies to Bush's victories in both 2000 and 2004.
(In terms of popular votes, Obama has received more support than every other candidate from both parties in American history, but comparisons to elections in previous generations are unfair given population growth.)
Eight years ago at this time, the Wall Street Journal editorial page insisted Bush/Cheney had a "mandate," arguing, "Never mind the closeness of the electoral vote, this time Mr. Bush easily won the popular vote, the first President to win more than 50% since his father in 1988."
Eight years later, Obama fared even better than Bush in both tallies (electoral votes and popular votes), suggesting, by conservative standards, the president has at least as credible a claim to a mandate.