David Bernstein looks at the results and puts them in perspective.
The picture is of a solid Democratic win, but not the tsunami some had expected. Obama won the popular vote by a solid, but not crushing, margin of slightly less than six percent (52.4-46.5). Bill Clinton beat Bob Dole by a significantly greater margin and even greater relative percentage (49.25-40.71), and George Bush by a slightly lower margin, but higher relative percentage (43.01-37.45). Bush, meanwhile, beat Dukakis by a larger margin, 53.4 to 45.6. The Democrats picked up about twenty House seats, on the low end of the expected range. And, as noted above, they seem likely to pick up five or six Senate seats,which would make the Senate races either 18-16 in favor of the Democrats, or tied at 17-17, again on the low end of the expected range.
It would have taken a miracle, or at least a match between a really unattractive democrat who made many mistakes and a dynamic Republican with Reagansque charisma, to produce a GOP win this year with the economy in a mess and poor, clueless George W. Bush hanging around the elephant’s neck like a dead albatross.
Considering all the factors destining this to be the democrat’s year, it could have been much worse.