Lost in all the punditry about the "impressive" Obama victory is how 2008 compares to other elections where one party had served two consecutive terms.
In 2004 Bush won re-election with about 2.5% of the vote. In 2008 Obama won by somewhere around 7.0%, producing a "swing" of 9.5%.
In 1904 Republican Theodore Roosevelt won by 18.83%. In 1908 Republican Taft won again, but only by 8.53%--a swing of 10 points even though Roosevelt was popular.
(1912 was complicated by a three-way race that hurt the Republicans, so direct comparisons with 1908 are impossible.)
In 1916 Democrat Woodrow Wilson won by 3.12%. In 1920, after an unpopular war and an economic recession (sound familiar?) Republican Harding won by 26.17%. The swing amounted to 29.29%.
(Another third party ticket sabotaged a party in 1924, making comparisons with 1928 impossible.)
In 1936 Roosevelt won re-election by 24.26%. He ran for a thrid term in 1940 and won by 9.95%--a swing of 14.31%.
(1944 was a war year and Harry Truman essentially served that term.)
In 1948 Truman was elected by 4.48%. In 1952 Eisenhower beat Stevenson by 10.85%. The swing was 15.33%.
In 1956 Eisenhower was re-elected by 15.40%. In 1960 Kennedy beat Nixon by 0.16%. The swing was 15.56% even though Eisenhower was popular.
In 1964 Johnson crushed Goldwater by 22.58%. In 1968 Richard Nixon barely won by 0.70% but it amounted to a 23.28% swing.
In 1972 Nixon won by 23.15%. In 1976 Carter beat Frod by 2.06% and the swing was 25.21%.
In 1984 Reagan won re-election by 18.22%. In 1988 Bush won a Republican third term by 7.73% but that still amounted to a 10.49% swing in spite of Reagan's popularity.
In 1992 Bush lost to Clinton by 5.56%, marking another 13.29% swing.
In 1996 Clinton was re-elected by 8.51% and in 2000 Gore won the popular vote by 0.51%. The Swing was 8.0% even though most thought the country was going in the right direction.
Barack Obama's 9.5% swing is thus smaller than the 16.5% average swing. In fact, only in 2000 was the swing less than 9.5%--and then not by much.
If we only average the unpopular administrations (1920, 1952, 1968, 1976, 1992), we get a swing of 21.28% on average.
Once again, the question that should be asked is why we didn't lose by more, not why we lost.