So, yes, Barack Obama’s victory was remarkable, but it was—as his own campaign manager himself proudly says—entirely a matter of getting the mechanical details right and building up from there. The Obama campaign spent four years figuring out how to maximize his vote (one of the advantages of incumbency; Karl Rove did the same for George W. Bush between 2001 and 2004) and a year constructing a strategy to minimize the vote of his opponent. The results were almost perfect.

Another argument in favor of the technical nature of the victory requires us to step back in time and note how well the president and his team were playing the game in the wake of the Democratic midterm wipeout of November 2010. One key element in the defeats (or preemptive surrenders) of first-term presidents seeking a second was a primary challenge within his own party—for Lyndon Johnson, Eugene McCarthy; for Jimmy Carter, Edward Kennedy; for George H.W. Bush, Patrick J. Buchanan. (This was true for Harry S. Truman as well, whose party split at the Democratic convention; he nonetheless squeaked through to victory.)

The electoral and economic conditions were ripe for such a challenge, which always comes from a party’s more ideologically doctrinaire base, but Obama never had to face one. That was surely due to the fact that his party had been devastated on Election Day 2010 due to the successful muscling-through of liberal desiderata—from a nearly $1 trillion stimulus to a United Auto Workers Union bailout (in the form of the auto bailout) to ObamaCare.