With Obama’s victory, Democrats have quietly won the popular vote in five of the six presidential elections since 1992. That matches the Republican record of winning the popular vote in five of the six elections from 1968 to 1988. (Democrats generally won by smaller margins and had the asterisk election of 2000, when Al Gore lost the Electoral College.) Obama became the first Democrat since Franklin Roosevelt to attract more than 50 percent of the vote in consecutive elections.

The fact that he did so while losing white voters so decisively underscored both his achievement and the social change that the result encapsulated. Before the election, I argued that Obama’s formula for success could be reduced to an equation of 80/40. So long as minorities represented at least 26 percent of voters (their share in 2008), Obama could amass a national majority by winning 80 percent of nonwhite voters and only 40 percent of whites. In fact, pending final adjustments in the exit poll, he hit that mark almost precisely, winning 80 percent of minorities and 39 percent of whites. Obama carried 93 percent of African-Americans, 73 percent of Asian-Americans, 71 percent of Hispanics, and 58 percent of all other racial and ethnic minorities, the exit polls found. He held most of his 2008 margins in white-collar suburban counties with large minority populations such as Florida’s Hillsborough, Virginia’s Henrico, and Ohio’s Franklin…

No Republican presidential nominee has won more than 50.8 percent of the popular vote since 1988. That’s largely because the party has remained almost completely dependent on whites for its support in a rapidly diversifying country. Romney, like John McCain in 2008, relied on whites for nearly 90 percent of his votes in a country with a 40 percent nonwhite population. Romney may have sealed his fate when the words “self-deportation” left his lips during a Florida primary debate. “We are in a position now where we have to—through differences in policy, differences in tone, and differences in candidates—reach out [to minorities] in a way we’ve never reached out before,” says veteran GOP pollster Whit Ayres. “Or we will not be successful as a national party.”