The 2012 election isn’t in the books quite yet. Just over two-thirds of states have certified their election results, while the state electors won’t meet until the first Monday after the second Wednesday of December (I’ll save you the math, it’s December 17th).
But we do have enough information to be able to highlight a fascinating statistical first. According to the Cook Political Report‘s David Wasserman, a man the Los Angeles Times labeled a one-man election clearinghouse, President Obama established an all-time low when it came to the percentage of U.S. counties won by a successful presidential candidate. He came out ahead in just 689 of more than three thousand counties—a paltry 22%. But because they were typically the largest counties in the largest states and because he won them by such dominant margins, the president parlayed those 689 counties into 332 electoral votes—62% of the total available. Of course, Obama also won the popular vote by what’s currently a 51-47 margin.
“Obama ran a better campaign in the states where the campaigns really mattered and put in (the) effort,” Wasserman said on The Daily Rundown today. “Democrats are really clustered at the presidential level. The map is redder today than it was in 1988 … but if you look at that divide, we may be moving to a new normal where Democrats and particularly non-white voters are sufficient in swing states to allow Democrats to win.”
The 22% figure is even more remarkable when you look at the candidate who held the record before him. It was … Barack Obama, who won just 28% of U.S. counties in 2008, then went ahead and broke his own record.