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In 2008, John McCain carried the state of Missouri by fewer than 4,000 votes, roughly one-tenth of 1 percent. This was the first time since 1956 that this bellwether state did not vote the way the rest of the nation did.

Despite the closeness of that race, the Obama camp chose not to contest Missouri. As a result, we here saw almost no TV ads for the presidential race and dramatically fewer yard signs than four years ago.

In 2012, Mitt Romney carried the state by nearly 10 percent. Missouri had not suddenly gotten more conservative as we re-elected both a Democratic U.S. senator and governor. And the major local papers, liberal to a fault, endorsed Barack Obama.

A week before the election, I visited my alma mater, Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. What struck me was the near total absence of Obama signs in this college town.

Here, too, Team Obama had chosen not to put up a fight, although their candidate actually carried the state by 1 percentage point in 2008. In 2012, without a fight, Obama lost Indiana to Romney by more than 10 percent.

Let me cite one more state in one more time zone to establish my thesis. In 2008, Barack Obama lost the state of Montana by 2 percent. In 2012, his campaign chose not to contest the state, and he lost by 13 percent.

Watching swing states like Ohio from a distance, I was at a loss to understand the polls. Obama carried Ohio by 4 percent in 2008. If Ohio followed the trend of uncontested swing states like Missouri, Romney should have been winning comfortably – by about 6 percent – but he apparently wasn’t.

Come Election Day this was borne out. Given comparable results in other highly contested states like Virginia and Florida, it becomes obvious that local economic conditions – car plants in Ohio, for instance – had little to do with the outcome.

Locals will have to provide the specifics, but the reason Obama won the election comes down to two major variables: advertising and vote harvesting.

As to advertising, the Obama campaign had an advantage in that it could say pretty much what it liked with impunity. A distressing percent of the media, local and national, were in the tank for Obama. They were not about to complain.

Harvesting does not get the attention it deserves. The vote harvester’s mission is to gather unthinking collectives of potential voters – nursing home residents, college students, skid-row dwellers – and get them to vote.

Harvesting does not necessarily mean fraud, but it clearly encourages it. Early voting makes harvesting all the more economical. Fewer people on the ground can get more accomplished.

In Florida, Ohio, Nevada, Iowa and North Carolina, more registered Democrats voted early than Republican – in some states, by as much as 50 percent more.

The harvesters seem to have done their best work in southeast Florida. In Miami-Dade County, Obama improved his results by 5 percent over 2008. In Broward, he improved his numbers as well but by less than half of 1 percent.

What makes these numbers suspect, especially the Miami-Dade numbers, is that Romney outperformed McCain’s 2008 numbers in virtually every other Florida county. And in those counties where Romney fell short, it was by a hair.

Interestingly, too, Obama’ numbers fell in every state of the union with one interesting exception – New Jersey. The Sandy photo-op would seem to have paid off. It might have even saved his election.

Obama appears to have won Florida by 46,000 votes. If Romney had done as well as McCain did in Miami-Dade, he would have won the state. This deserves more attention.

Before Republicans decide they have to scrap their conservative agenda to win an election, as too many pundits too instantly recommend, they would do well to tighten voting procedures everywhere.

The results in Indiana, Missouri and Montana show what ordinary Americans actually think of Obama’s performance as president. Even a corrupt media have not blinded them.

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