Why Biden got more votes than Obama (in 2008)

By Leroy Cleveland - September 11, 2022

Supporters of President Trump who believe the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election was rigged point to Joe Biden’s popular vote total of 81.3 million and insist it’s an impossible number to attain. After all, it was far greater than the previous popular vote record of 69.5 million set by Barack Obama in 2008.

Obama, in 2008, was arguably a little more popular than Biden heading into the 2020 election so there must have been fraud, right?


Trump factor
For starters, Obama, in 2008, didn’t run against Donald Trump, the most divisive, most unpopular presidential nominee in history. That’s not an opinion, it’s a fact.

Obama’s opponent in 2008, John McCain, was the opposite of Trump. He was likable, well-spoken, experienced, and not controversial. As a result, and because he didn’t enrage the masses, voting wasn’t high on the list for millions of apolitical Americans.

McCain or Obama… Many of us simply didn’t care.

But Trump, to his credit, succeeded in getting the average American more engaged in politics.

There’s no doubt that Trump, because of his unique and bullish style, attracted a lot of supporters who previously weren’t interested in politics and his 74.2 million votes in 2020 represent the second highest popular vote total of all-time for that reason.

However, that same style incensed a lot of Americans created and energized far more critics who wouldn’t have otherwise not voted but were all too happy to cast their ballots against him.

Polarizing figures, whether athletes, musicians, or politicians, attract a lot of attention, and not all of it is positive. And Trump is polarizing so it’s not surprising voter turnout was so high – On both sides.

Much easier to vote, duh!
Also, and perhaps of equal significance, most state governments made it much easier to vote in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Previously, over 80 percent of Americans voted by traveling to their local voting location on Election Day, standing in line, and filling out a ballot. And if you didn’t have transportation or were too busy on Election Day to get to the polls and stand in line, you usually didn’t vote.

In 2020, however, mail-in voting, a decades-old process once designated for people with special situations, was opened to the masses in many states, making voting easy and convenient.

The masses now had a 1 to 3-week timeframe to vote as opposed to a 12-hour window on Election Day. Moreover, those without transportation could vote from the comfort of their own homes and didn’t have to worry about getting to the polls.

President Trump was hostile toward the process from the beginning, repeatedly insisting, without evidence, the process was vulnerable to fraud.

But the president well-understood what many election experts banked on – The process, proven safe and airtight over the years, would make voting easier for inner city citizens.

…. And they’d take advantage of it.

Imagine: A 25-year-old single mom is living in inner-city Detroit and is between jobs, broke, and has no transportation. Getting to her local voting location on Election Day probably isn’t going to be a priority. However, if she’s sent a ballot she will likely take a few minutes to complete it and send it back.

Rural Americans also took advantage of the new voting processes and participated at a higher rate versus the 2016 Election; But, the process was of greater benefit to people in the inner cities.

…. And that’s what Trump and Republican campaign consultants were afraid of.

Had mail-in voting not been implemented, participation in the 2020 Election would have still eclipsed the 2016 Election but wouldn’t have been nearly as high as it was. Biden would have received less than 81.3 million votes and Trump would have gotten less than 74.2 million votes.

So – of course, voter participation was high on both sides. With a controversial candidate like Trump coupled with easy and convenient voting methods, how could participation not be high?

If the process of widespread mail-in voting carries over to the 2024 Election, we’ll, again, see significantly increased voter participation versus 2016, 2012, 2008, 2004, and 2000.

Biden got more votes than Obama because 1) he ran against a more polarizing opponent and 2) it was a lot easier to vote in most states in the 2020 Election versus 2008.


Tags: Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Presidential Politics, Stats / Facts, U.S. Presidential Race 2020