Turnout was apparently down, at least as a percentage of eligible voters. The president was re-elected by a reduced margin. The challenger didn't inspire the turnout surge he needed.
Every re-elected president since Andrew Jackson has won with an increased popular vote percentage. Barack Obama didn't. He won 53 percent to 46 percent in 2008. His numbers as I write are 50 percent to 48 percent over Mitt Romney. That could go up to 51 percent to 48 percent when California finishes its count, which took five weeks in 2008.
Obama owes most of his electoral vote majority of 332 to negative campaigning. His strategists barraged the target states of Florida, Ohio and Virginia with attack ads against Romney for months.
The ads took a toll. Preliminary figures show that outside the eight clear target states, Obama's percentage declined by 2.8 points. In the firewall states, it was down by only 1.4 points and in five other target states by only 2.1 points.
That enabled him to win those three firewall states by a total of about 250,000 votes. A 2.8 percent swing everywhere would have left him narrowly ahead in the popular vote and with 290 electoral votes.
That would have been similar to the 286 electoral votes George W. Bush won when he was re-elected by 51 percent to 48 percent. But turnout that year was sharply up, from 105 million in 2000 to 122 million in 2004. Turnout rose to 131 million in 2008. It looks to be about 129 million this year.
Examination of county election results suggests that the Obama organization did an excellent job of increasing black voter turnout in the central cities and Southern rural areas in the target states. It also did a great job of turning out Hispanics in metro Denver and Las Vegas, and non-Cuban Hispanics in Miami-Dade County and Osceola and Orange Counties around Disney World in Florida.
Blacks are unlikely to record larger margins for Democrats ever again. But the increased Hispanic margin for Obama poses a serious challenge to Republicans in years ahead.
The Obamaites were less successful in making gains in university counties in the target states of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina and Virginia. Under-30 voter support for Obama declined from 66 percent to 32 percent in 2008 to 60 percent to 37 percent in 2012.