Michael Barone

The Democratic percentage also went up 5 percent in California, where high taxes are driving out middle-income families, and in North Carolina, which the Obama campaign shrewdly targeted in 2008. Obama carried it by 1 point then and lost by only 2 points this time.

The Republican percentage increased by 8 points in coal-country West Virginia and in the now Clintonless Arkansas. It also increased in other states with the warlike Jacksonian tradition -- Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Louisiana and Oklahoma.

Obama ran 1 point lower than Kerry in the latter's Massachusetts and in Utah and Wyoming. His percentage was almost precisely the same as Kerry's in Arizona, evidence that its increasing Hispanic population is not tipping that state Democratic.

I draw two conclusions from these figures -- one with some certainty and one tentatively.

One is that Democrats have a structural advantage in the Electoral College. An extra 2.46 percent of the popular vote netted Obama 80 more electoral votes than Kerry. Obama won 58 percent or more in 11 states and the District of Columbia, with 163 electoral votes. He needed only 107 more to win.

In 2004, the 16 states Bush won with 58 percent or more had only 130 electoral votes. He needed 140 more to win and barely got them.

My tentative conclusion is that we may be back to the nearly even balance between the parties we saw between 1995 and 2005. Since then, we've been in a period of open field politics, with big swings to the Democrats in 2006 and 2008 and a big swing to the Republicans in 2010.

Both sides hoped those swings would prove permanent. 2012 suggests both sides were disappointed. It looks like we're back to trench warfare politics at the national level.

Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM