Peggy Noonan, famed for suggesting that Gore was mentally unstable when he sighed too loudly during the 2000 debate (but strangely didn’t say anything when Bush said “Let me finish” in the first 2004 debate when nobody was trying to stop him), writes
Let us get our heads around the size and scope of what happened Tuesday. George W. Bush, 43rd president of the United States, became the first incumbent president to increase his majority in both the Senate and the House and to increase his own vote (by over 3.5 million) since Franklin D. Roosevelt, political genius of the 20th century, in 1936. This is huge.
George W. Bush is the first president to win more than 50% of the popular vote since 1988. (Bill Clinton failed to twice; Mr. Bush failed to last time and fell short of a plurality by half a million.) The president received more than 59 million votes, breaking Ronald Reagan’s old record of 54.5 million. Mr. Bush increased his personal percentages in almost every state in the union. He carried the Catholic vote and won 42% of the Hispanic vote and 24% of the Jewish vote (up from 19% in 2000.)
It will be hard for the mainstream media to continue, in the face of these facts, the mantra that we are a deeply and completely divided country. But they’ll try!
Now I’m not going to cry foul on any attempt to portray Bush as the winner because, you know, he like, won, and stuff. But let’s look at three factors that Ms Noonan glosses over:
- FDR’s share of vote: 60.8%. Bush’s: 51.4% (lowest of any incumbent president since FDR)
- Increase in population since Reagan’s victory: 24%. Increase in vote: 9.5%
- Number of times the winner of the electoral college has lost the popular vote: 4 (1824, 1876, 1888, 2000).
There have been many closer elections in the popular vote, but 51% to 48% is hardly a blow-out. A lot of people voted for him, but not a meaningful record really. And to have won at all he almost had to improve his previous results.
A solid result then, and the Republican gains he led in Congress in 2002 and 2004 are striking, but nothing about it suggests that the country isn’t polarized; the divide is merely a little further to the right than before.
Update: Here’s a more thorough accounting.