On the one hand, Obama’s success underscored the demographic and geographic advantages that Democrats have developed over the past quarter-century in the race for the White House. With the victory, Democrats have now won the popular vote in five of the past six presidential elections–matching the Republican record from 1968-1988 (if not the massive margins the GOP frequently racked up during those years). Obama also held all 18 “blue wall” states that have voted Democratic in each election since 1992. By doing so he set a new milestone: that is the most states Democrats have won that often since the formation of the modern party system in 1828.

In another important success, Obama’s unprecedented effort to reshape the electorate’s composition, boosted by the tailwind of changing demography, also paid off: According to the exit polls, the share of votes cast by minorities increased to 28 percent (just as Obama’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, had predicted for months). The president captured an overwhelming 80 percent of those voters, including not only more than nine in 10 African-Americans, but also about seven in 10 Hispanics, and about three in four Asians.

In the Sun Belt, that rising minority participation allowed him to overcome a weak performance among whites to win Virginia, Nevada, and Colorado, and to hold a narrow lead late into the night in Florida.