The ten best US election stats

Including, how the Democrats have won the popular vote in five of the last six elections.

1. Barack Obama is the first US President since Franklin D. Roosevelt to win re-election with unemployment above 7.2 per cent. The jobless rate is currently 7.9 per cent, 0.7 per cent higher than the rate when Ronald Reagan won a second term in 1984. Roosevelt secured re-election in 1936 with unemployment at 16.6 per cent.

2. Based on exit polls, Obama won 93 per cent of the black vote, 73 per cent of the Asian vote, 71 per cent of the Hispanic vote and 39 per cent of the white vote. Nate Silver notes that "forty-five percent of those who voted for Mr. Obama were racial minorities, a record number".

3. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are the first presidential ticket to lose both candidates' home states (Massachusetts and Wisconsin) since 1972 Democrat candidates George McGovern (South Dakota) and Sargent Shriver (Maryland).

4. Defying conservative predictions that he would win the Electoral College but lose the popular vote, Obama currently has 58,532,508 votes (50.2 per cent) to Romney's 56,353,802 (48.2 per cent).

5. Obama's re-election marks the first time the US has had three two-term presidencies in a row since Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe.

6. As the Democrats quipped, "we've got ballots full of women". It was the female half of the US population that secured Obama's re-election, voting by 55 per cent to 44 per cent for the US president. Men, by contrast, voted for Romney by 52 per cent to 45 per cent.

7. The Democrats have won the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections (1992, 1996, 2000, 2008 and 2012). Al Gore won the popular vote against George W. Bush in 2000 by 543,895 (0.5 per cent) but lost the Electoral College to Bush by five votes (271 to 266).

8. Obama polled strongest among 18-29-year-olds (60 per cent), whilist Romney polled strongest among the over-65s (56 per cent).

9. Fifty six per cent of self-described "moderates" voted for Obama along with 86 per cent of liberals. Eighty two per cent of conservatives voted for Romney.

10. Obama's victory tweet - "Four more years" - has had 563,281 retweets and 189,641 favourites, making it the most popular tweet ever.

Barack Obama and family arrive on stage in Chicago, Illinois. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty Images
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I'm far from convinced by Cameron's plans for Syria

The Prime Minister has a plan for when the bombs drop. But what about after?

In the House of Commons today, the Prime Minister set out a powerful case for Britain to join air strikes against Isil in Syria.  Isil, he argued, poses a direct threat to Britain and its people, and Britain should not be in the business of “outsourcing our security to our allies”. And while he conceded that further airstrikes alone would not be sufficient to beat Isil, he made the case for an “Isil first” strategy – attacking Isil now, while continuing to do what we can diplomatically to help secure a lasting settlement for Syria in which Assad (eventually) plays no part.

I agreed with much of David Cameron’s analysis. And no-one should doubt either the murderous barbarism of Isil in the region, or the barbarism they foment and inspire in others across the world.  But at the end of his lengthy Q&A session with MPs, I remained unconvinced that UK involvement in airstrikes in Syria was the right option. Because the case for action has to be a case for action that has a chance of succeeding.  And David Cameron’s case contained neither a plan for winning the war, nor a plan for winning the peace.

The Prime Minister, along with military experts and analysts across the world, concedes that air strikes alone will not defeat Isil, and that (as in Iraq) ground forces are essential if we want to rid Syria of Isil. But what is the plan to assemble these ground forces so necessary for a successful mission?  David Cameron’s answer today was more a hope than a plan. He referred to “70,000 Syrian opposition fighters - principally the Free Syrian Army (FSA) – with whom we can co-ordinate attacks on Isil”.

But it is an illusion to think that these fighters can provide the ground forces needed to complement aerial bombardment of Isil.  Many commentators have begun to doubt whether the FSA continues to exist as a coherent operational entity over the past few months. Coralling the myriad rebel groups into a disciplined force capable of fighting and occupying Isil territory is a heroic ambition, not a plan. And previous efforts to mobilize the rebels against Isil have been utter failures. Last month the Americans abandoned a $500m programme to train and turn 5,400 rebel fighters into a disciplined force to fight Isil. They succeeded in training just 60 fighters. And there have been incidents of American-trained fighters giving some of their US-provided equipment to the Nusra Front, an affiliate of Al Qaeda.

Why has it proven so hard to co-opt rebel forces in the fight against Isil? Because most of the various rebel groups are fighting a war against Assad, not against Isil.  Syria’s civil war is gruesome and complex, but it is fundamentally a Civil War between Assad’s forces and a variety of opponents of Assad’s regime. It would be a mistake for Britain to base a case for military action against Isil on the hope that thousands of disparate rebel forces can be persuaded to change their enemy – especially when the evidence so far is that they won’t.

This is a plan for military action that, at present, looks highly unlikely to succeed.  But what of the plan for peace? David Cameron today argued for the separation of the immediate task at hand - to strike against Isil in Syria – from the longer-term ambition of achieving a settlement in Syria and removing Assad.  But for Isil to be beaten, the two cannot be separated. Because it is only by making progress in developing a credible and internationally-backed plan for a post-Assad Syria that we will persuade Syrian Sunnis that fighting Isil will not end up helping Assad win the Civil War.  If we want not only to rely on rebel Sunnis to provide ground troops against Isil, but also provide stable governance in Isil-occupied areas when the bombing stops, progress on a settlement to Syria’s Civil War is more not less urgent.  Without it, the reluctance of Syrian Sunnis to think that our fight is their fight will undermine the chances of military efforts to beat Isil and bring basic order to the regions they control. 

This points us towards doubling down on the progress that has already been made in Vienna: working with the USA, France, Syria’s neighbours and the Gulf states, as well as Russia and Iran. We need not just a combined approach to ending the conflict, but the prospect of a post-war Syria that offers a place for those whose cooperation we seek to defeat Isil. No doubt this will strike some as insufficient in the face of the horrors perpetrated by Isil. But I fear that if we want not just to take action against Isil but to defeat them and prevent their return, it offers a better chance of succeeding than David Cameron’s proposal today. 

Stewart Wood is a former Shadow Cabinet minister and adviser to Ed Miliband. He tweets as @StewartWood.