Below is a county-by-county look at Obama's improvement over Kerry in key battleground states:
COLORADO: Obama flipped three swing counties Bush won in 2004 -- Arapahoe, Jefferson and Larimer -- and overperformed Kerry in every county in the state. Obama also flipped Ouray, which had gone 52%-47% for Bush, but went 53%-45% for Obama.
FLORIDA: In the swing counties we were watching, Obama flipped two and made improvements in all but one. McCain showed strength on the Northern Gulf coast and the Panhandle, but Obama made necessary improvements in the swing Tampa/St. Petersburg area and the Atlantic coast, as well as making huge improvements in Orlando. Obama flipped Hillsborough (Tampa), which went 53%-46% for Bush, but 51%-48% for Obama; Pinellas (St. Petersburg), which was decided by about 200 votes in 2004 in favor of Bush, but Obama won it by nine percentage points, 54%-45%. In central Florida, Obama made big improvements, flipping Osceola from 52%-47% Bush to 60%-40% Obama. Orange County (Orlando) was won by Kerry, but just barely, 49.8%-49.6%. Obama won it 59%-40%. Of the swing counties we were watching, only in Hernando did McCain improve.
INDIANA: Obama flipped 11 counties here, winning a total of 15 in all. By comparison, Kerry won just four. In Tippecanoe, Obama improved by 32 points (Bush won it by 19, Obama won it by 12); In Delaware, Obama improved by 29; Madison by 26; Perry by 23; Vanderburgh and Spencer by 20; Vermillon by 16. And that's not counting Marion (Indianapolis), which Kerry won by just two points and Obama won by 26.
MICHIGAN: Michigan is yet another state where Obama outperformed Kerry in every single county in the state. Obama strength was not limited to just the cities/urban areas. His victory was sweeping. He showed strength even in rural Northern Michigan. Obama won 46 counties overall; Kerry won just 15 -- meaning Obama flipped 31 Bush-won counties. In the six swing counties we were watching, Obama won all of them. Obama also improved margins in Wayne (Detroit) and got 56,000 more votes out of it.
MINNESOTA: Obama did better in every county in Minnesota but two -- Lac qui Parle (in the West, bordering South Dakota) and Morrison (Central), which only have 20,000 votes between them. Obama still won Lac qui Parle though. Kerry won just 24 counties, Obama 42. Of the five populous Bush-won swing counties First Read was watching, Obama flipped three (Dakota, Olmstead and Washington). Out of Hennepin (Minneapolis) Obama got almost 40,000 more votes than Kerry.
MISSOURI: Though Obama came up short in Missouri, he improved in nearly every county, including the Southwest. Obama won nine counties to Kerry's four, including flipping Jefferson, Washington (by just eight votes) and Iron in the East and Boone (Columbia) and Buchanan in the Northwest. McCain, however, won by wider margins than Bush in 14 counties, including a handful of bordering Iowa and in the Southeast corner bordering Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas. McCain got 4,000 more votes out of those counties than Bush. Obama lost the state by 5,859 votes, or 0.2 percentage points, making it the closest contest of all.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Incredibly, in the state that saved McCain over and over again, Obama won every single county, including Carroll and Belknap, which haven't gone for a Democrat as far back as we could find county data (to 1960). Obama overperformed Kerry and flipped four counties Bush had won – Carroll and Belknap as well as the populous Hillsborough (Manchester, Nashua) and Rockingham (Portsmouth).
NEW MEXICO: Obama improved here in every county also. He flipped Sandoval (+15), Los Alamos (+12), Hidalgo (+14), Luna (+16), Colfax (+14), and Valencia (+19). Obama also significantly improved on Kerry's margins winning places like Cibola County by 23 more points, Bernalillo (Albuquerque) by 17 more, McKinley by 16 more, San Miguel by 17 more, Mora by 24, Taos by 15 more, Rio Arriba by 20 more, Guadalupe by 24 more, and Santa Fe by 12 more.
NEVADA: It's another state where Obama outperformed Kerry in every single county. Obama bested Kerry in Clark County (Las Vegas, Henderson) by roughly 90,000 votes. In 2004, Clark accounted for 67% of Kerry's overall vote total, but he lost the state, as he won no other counties and got blown out in more rural ones like Elko. In 2008, Obama was not only fueled by higher numbers in Clark (which this time accounted for 71% of the Democrats' total vote in the state), but he also flipped traditionally Republican Washoe County (Reno) and also got neighboring Carson City County. He won Washoe -- which hadn't gone Democratic since 1964 -- by an incredible 12.6 percentage points. Kerry lost it 51%-47%. Carson City County had gone for Bush 57%-41%, but Obama won it 49%-48%. Also, Obama shrunk the margins in Elko. Bush won it 78%-20% in 2004; McCain won it 69%-28%. Obama very nearly flipped the tiny Mineral County, which went for Bush by 17 points, but McCain by just 2.
NORTH CAROLINA: Obama's win in North Carolina was fueled by huge gains in the Research Triangle, Charlotte, Asheville, and Fayetteville. Obama flipped Wake County (Raleigh), which went for Bush 50%-49%. Obama won it 57%-42%. He also flipped Buncombe (Asheville), winning it 57%-43%; and Cumberland (Fayetteville), which Bush won 52%-48%, but Obama took 58%-41%. He blew out Kerry's margins in Guilford (Greensboro) and elsewhere. Overall, Obama won 35 counties; Kerry won 20.
OHIO: The key to Ohio for Obama was flipping Hamilton County (Cincinnati), shrinking margins in Northwestern Ohio and expanding in the Northern part of the state generally. Obama beat McCain 52%-47% in Hamilton; Bush won it 53%-47%. Obama won all of the counties Kerry won and flipped six others for a total of 22 counties won. Tuscarawas County, in Eastern Ohio, Bush won 56%-44%; Obama though took it 50%-48%. Obama also took three counties around Toledo -- Sandusky, Ottawa and Wood. Bush won Sandusky by 12 points, but Obama won it by four. Obama really shrunk margins in Northwestern Ohio. He may not have won some of those counties, but he made them much closer. He gained 21 in Henry County, 20 in Williams, 17 in Fulton, 17 in Hancock, 15 in Wyandot, 15 in Seneca, 14 in Huron (which Obama lost by just 3). McCain did do better than Bush in Eastern border (near Pennsylvania) counties and Southern border counties (Kentucky), but it wasn't enough.
PENNSYLVANIA: The trend in Western Pennsylvania away from Democrats over the past 16 years continued, as Obama did better in every county in Pennsylvania except in the Southwest. In fact, McCain flipped three counties -- Beaver, Fayette and Washington -- that Kerry won in 2004. But they weren't enough as Obama expanded margins in the Eastern part of the state and won more counties overall than Kerry did. In 2004, Kerry won 13 counties; Obama won 18. Obama flipped Centre County, which is literally bulls-eye dead center of the state. In 2004, it voted 52%-48% for Bush, Obama won it 55%-42%. He also flipped Cambria, which is always tight, in Central Southwest and Elk in Central Northwest. But Obama ran up the score in Eastern PA, as he flipped five Bush-won counties and expanded his margins in Philadelphia and the suburbs.
VIRGINIA: Except in the far Southwest corner of the state, Obama improved on Kerry's 2004 margins. Northern Virginia fueled Obama's victory, as he flipped Loudon and Prince William counties and expanded his margins in Fairfax, Arlington, and Alexandria. But he also made big inroads in the Hampton Roads areas and the Virginia Beach area. Bush won Accomack County 58%-41% in 2004, but McCain won it by less than a point. Kerry won Northampton by two, but Obama built that out to 17. Bush won Virginia Beach by 19, but McCain won it by just two. Kerry won Norfolk by a convincing 24 points, but Obama blew that out to 42. And Obama flipped Chesapeake County, which Bush won by 15, and Obama eked out by 1. Obama also flipped Henrico (Richmond suburbs), a 20-point turnaround. Obama also picked up four of the swing counties bordering Southern Maryland, north of Richmond. McCain flipped just two counties -- Dickenson and Buchanan in the Southwest, but there are only about 16,000 votes in both counties combined. Obama made up about 20,000 out of Loudon alone from 2004.
WISCONSIN: It's hard to believe that Wisconsin was the closest state in 2004. Just 0.38 percentage points separated Kerry and Bush. The state was mostly red in 2004, but it is almost entirely blue in 2008. Obama improved in every single county, rural, urban, North, South, East, West, everywhere. Kerry won 27 counties in 2004, but they were some of the most populous. But this time, Obama won 60. He flipped everything, including the Green Bay region, leaving McCain with just 13 total counties.
The Politico's Charlie Mathesian puts the microscope to Obama's performance in the country's 100 fastest growing counties, where Obama dramatically cut into the GOP's past margins this cycle. "Four years after George W. Bush underscored the Republican dominance of these places by winning 97 of the 100 fastest-growing counties, Obama won 15 of them in 2008 and dramatically scaled back the GOP's margin of victory in many more, according to a Politico analysis of unofficial election results in the Census Bureau's 100 counties that grew the fastest between April 2000 and July 2007."
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The Miami Herald has what they claim is the inside story on how Obama won Florida.
The nonpartisan National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials estimates that between 9.6 million and 11 million Hispanics voted in the election, compared to a U.S. Census estimate of 7.6 million in 2004. Latinos comprised 9 percent of all voters this year, compared to 7 percent in 2004, according to Associated Press exit polls."