2012 election fits recent pattern with surprises, unusual twists - CBS 5 - KPHO

2012 election fits recent pattern with surprises, unusual twists

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President Barack Obama won a surprisingly easy re-election over challenger Mitt Romney, taking a decisive win in the Electoral College and defying polls that showed him trailing in the popular vote. The president won seven of eight swing states considered tossups before the election and was the clear winner in the nationwide popular vote. But surprises, controversy and close shaves have been the rule in the past two decades of presidential elections.

In 1992, Bill Clinton defeated incumbent George H.W. Bush with 370 electoral votes to 168, but Clinton only received 43 percent of the popular vote because third-party candidate Ross Perot got almost 20 million votes, or about 19 percent.

In 1996, Perot was less of a factor, garnering only about 8 percent of the vote, but Clinton got 49.2 percent of the popular vote to about 42 percent for challenger Bob Dole. Clinton again won a decisive Electoral College victory, 379-159.

In 2000, George W. Bush won the state of Florida after multiple recounts and court challenges that were finally resolved with a 5-4 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that awarded him the state's 25 electoral votes. His 537-vote victory out of almost 6 million votes cast in Florida gave him the Electoral College victory, 271-266. Vice President Al Gore won the national popular vote by about a half-million votes.

In 2004, George W. Bush outpolled Sen. John Kerry by more than 3 million votes, taking 51 percent of the popular vote. But his slim 286-251 margin in the Electoral College came via a 2 percent victory in Ohio, which delivered the decisive 20 electoral votes. In an even closer swing-state victory, Kerry won Minnesota's 10 electoral votes by 10,000 of 2.9 million votes cast.

Four presidents took office without winning the popular vote. In addition to George W. Bush's 2000 contest; John Quincy Adams lost by 44,804 votes to Andrew Jackson in 1824; Rutherford B. Hayes lost to Samuel J. Tilden by 264,292 votes in 1876; and Benjamin Harrison lost to Grover Cleveland in 1888 by 95,713.

An Electoral College tie is a slim possibility because there are an even number of electoral votes. While most states are winner-take-all, Maine and Nebraska can split their electoral votes among candidates, enabling a tie.

The Electoral College originally had an odd number of votes, which made such a contingency impossible, but when Washington D.C. was granted electoral votes, the city was not permitted to have more than the state with the fewest number of electoral votes. Thus, the District of Columbia has three electoral votes, creating a total number of 570, making a presidential tie mathematically possible.

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