Election Was Cities Vs. Rural U.S.

It should have been simple for Mitt Romney to have won the presidency. All he had to do was convince people in Cleveland, Philadelphia, Miami and Chicago to vote for him. Really.

President Barack Obama won re-election with 322 electoral votes to Romney’s 206. But had just the four cities listed above been removed from the equation, Romney would have received 293 electoral votes to Obama’s 245.

Lots of “divides” – involving race, gender, age, income and regions – have been cited as reasons why Obama won and Romney lost. But the really critical divide in America could be seen on maps showing how individual counties throughout the nation voted on Nov. 6.

It’s the cities. Check one of those maps and you’ll notice nearly the entire country is shown in red. Those are counties where Romney received majorities. But those tiny blue spots are packed urban areas where Obama won – and went home with all the marbles.

Back to the four cities: Had votes cast for both Obama and Romney in those urban areas and the counties around them not been counted, Romney would have had majorities in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and even Obama’s home state of Illinois. Yes, that’s right: People in rural regions of Illinois didn’t give majorities to Obama. Perhaps they know him too well.

Among them, the four states had 87 electoral votes, more than enough to push Romney over the top.

In the 50 most populous cities in the United States and the counties surrounding them, Obama won big on election night. The nationwide tally had Obama with 51.43 percent of the vote to Romney’s 48.57 percent. But in those 50 urban areas, Obama raked in 63.2 percent to Romney’s 36.79 percent.

About 121.7 million votes were cast nationwide. Slightly more than one-fifth, nearly 26 million, came from the 50 most populous urban counties. They have more influence than the small areas they occupy on the map suggest.

In some cities, the vote was ridiculously lopsided. In New York City, Obama received 83.3 percent of the vote. In Philadelphia, it was 85.2 percent. San Francisco gave him 83.3 percent and Baltimore, 84.4 percent.

But the biggest majority of all came from – you guessed it – Washington, D.C. There, 91 percent of voters preferred the incumbent. It ought to tell the rest of us something when more than nine in 10 denizens of the capital favor a candidate.

A few urban areas bucked the trend. Ten of the 50 biggest sided with Romney. Interestingly enough, one of them was Fresno, Calif., where Romney got 50.8 percent to Obama’s 47.4 percent (third-party candidates received the remainder).

What’s the message from this for Republicans? Nothing they didn’t already know, truth be told. Big urban areas have tended to vote Democratic for many years. And, for Democrats who pride themselves on their organizational skills, it’s a help that going door-to-door is easier in a city. It doesn’t hurt that the big government employee unions have the most clout in urban areas.

Urban areas also tend to receive more of the “gifts” from federal government that Romney cited as a reason for his defeat.

What about poverty? One analyst insisted before the election that Romney’s base included some regions with high poverty. He based that on a 2012 study showing that 70 percent of the counties with the fastest growth in food stamp recipients during the past four years voted for John McCain in the 2008 presidential election.

But read that carefully: The study took into account growth in food stamp recipients. In other words, many of those who vote conservatively are Americans who probably were working a few years ago, but lost their jobs and had to apply for food stamps. We’re not talking the hard-core unemployed, here.

It’s no wonder Obama sometimes talks down to those of us outside the big cities. Remember the crack about how rural voters “cling to their guns or religion”? Truth is, Obama knew he didn’t need us. That may be the most dangerous divide of all for a nation with our heritage.

Myer can be reached via e-mail at myer@theintelligencer.net.