Lots of pundits (myself included) may be seriously underestimating voter turnout. As of this moment, Donald Trump is sitting at 59.7 million votes while Hillary Clinton has 59.9 million. By contrast, George Bush had 62 million votes in 2004, John McCain had 59.9 million in 2008, and Romney had 60.9 million in 2012. That would make Trump the weakest GOP vote-getter since Bush in 2000. But that’s almost certainly not right.
As Henry Olsen reminds us today on Twitter, millions of votes are still out there:
There are still 8-10 millions vote left to count. When they are, Trump will easily pass Mitt and HRC will approach and maybe pass Obama. https://t.co/ByGPqtvEcE— Henry Olsen (@henryolsenEPPC) November 10, 2016
As of this writing, Obama had a 58,720,700 (50.1%) to 56,145,950 (48.4%) lead on Mitt Romney for the popular vote.
(UPDATE: As of 2:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Obama has widened his popular vote lead. He now leads 60,193,076 or 50.4% to 57,468,587 or 48.1% with nearly all precincts reporting. Still no official word yet, however.)
(UPDATE (2): As of Noon on Friday, with nearly all votes in, Obama assuredly will win the popular vote, leading Romney by a count of 61,173,739 or 50.5% to 58,167,260 or 48.0%. At this point, a few final votes are being counted and then all that’s left is for the results to be officially certified.)
Obama ended up with 65.9 million votes and — again — Romney had 60.9 million. Assuming similar changes in 2016, turnout may well increase over 2012. Moreover, it will make Trump’s performance stronger and the Democrats’ future a bit more bleak. It’s one thing to look at extraordinarily low Democratic turnout and believe that a victory is just one better candidate away. It’s another thing to look at increased Republican votes combined with more or less static Democratic turnout and realize that perhaps Obama captured something in 2008 that’s not easily replicated.
So stay tuned. Early analysis — like early reporting — is often wrong. It will take more time and more study before we understand the true dimensions of Trump’s victory.