Three weeks after the presidential election, President Obama continues to slowly build his margin of victory over Mitt Romney. The political analyst most closely following the tally now projects that Obama to eventually best the Republican by about 5 million votes and earn 51% of the total.
That would make the Democratic incumbent the first president since Dwight D. Eisenhower to twice get 51% or more of the popular vote. Ike ran up massive 55% and 57% landslides over Sen. Adlai Stevenson (D-Ill.).
As of Thursday, Obama had 65,089,940 votes, putting him at 50.9%, according to totals being compiled by David Wasserman, an editor at the Cook Political Report. But Obama’s margin stands to continue climbing, as many votes remain to be counted in Democratic-leaning states. (Obama ended up with 52.9% of the vote his 2008 run against Republican John McCain.)
Wasserman estimates there are 100,000 votes outstanding in New Jersey, 300,000 left to count in California and as many as 1 million in New York not yet tabulated. Election officials blame Superstorm Sandy, in part, for the slow tally on parts of the Eastern Seaboard. Many voters there cast provisional ballots, whose legitimacy must be verified before they can be counted.
The final numbers may upset some of the conventional thinking that had begun to congeal early around the 2012 outcome. It now appears that a total of 130 million votes may have been cast nationally for all candidates. That would only be 1.3 million fewer than in 2008 — when the unprecedented ascendancy of an African-American to a major party ticket was thought to have driven high turnout.
In arguing against an Obama mandate from the 2012 election, some Republicans had noted that the incumbent would get 7 million fewer votes than he did in 2008. Now it appears that difference may end up being something closer to 3 million.
Wasserman is U.S. House editor for the Washington-based Cook report. He already spends long hours tracking every House race in America but said he added on the presidential tally “for kicks.” With most (or maybe all) big news organizations giving up the labor-intensive work of tracking results county by county in the weeks after election day, Wasserman now has the work mostly to himself. That makes him a go-to source for politicos and journalists.
He spends six or seven hours a day searching for new numbers. “It’s exciting for me when I find new votes,” Wasserman, 28, said in an interview Thursday, between speaking engagements. “It’s like a buried treasure.”