Trouble is popular vote means nothing, electorally he got pummeled.
President won the popular vote by nearly 5 million. That is a huge margin.
It's very small by re-election standards. The difference in popular vote (about 4%) was slightly larger than Bush's margin, about half of Clinton's margin and about 1/5 or less of the margin that Reagan, Nixon or LBJ won by.
Whenever I see this on TV and whatnot, I fail to see the significance in those comparisons. Can someone explain it to me like I'm a five year old? Isn't it still 100% of the votes he won by?
These are all re-election margins. I'll explain what I think BBall is saying:
Obama's margin was about 4%. He won 51% and Romney 47.3%. (3.7% to be more precise)
Obama won by slightly larger margin than Bush: Bush 50.7% vs Kerry 48.3 - 2.4% victory for Bush vs 3.7% for Obama.
Clinton's margin was about double (or Obama's was half of Clinton's) so Clinton had about 8% margin over dole (something like 53 to 45 I guess.)
Obama was about 1/5th of the other guys (LBJ, Nixon, Reagan) so they won by 5 times 4% or about 20%.
The reason to use % is the population changes (grows over time) and election turnout (% of eligible voter who actually vote) can vary greatly.
Looking at hard numbers is useful. For example if less people voted for Obama in 2012 than 2008, you could interpret that to mean people are getting sick of him, but just don't like Romney enough to show up. Or if more people vote for Obama in 2012 than in 2008, you could interpret that to mean he's converting apathetic and/or republican voters to convert to his cause. These kind of analysis are hard to do at a data level because there is so many variables, so you tend to get the TV blaring some cheesy high level interpretations. Doesn't mean there is no value, just take with grain of salt.