President Barack H. Obama triumphed again against unrelenting opposition, some of it far beyond mere campaign rhetoric, for the highest political office in the country, and was re-elected to a second term as president of the United States.
By the next morning, he had accumulated 303 electoral college votes (270 needed to win) to 191 for the challenger, Mitt Romney, and a solid 2 percentage points lead in the popular vote count (more than 3 million votes more than the challenger).
Florida, again having trouble with its ballot count, as voters in that state were still standing in line to cast their ballots through 11 p.m. Tuesday night, finally reported an Obama victory Wednesday morning, and the president’s total went to 332 electoral votes, a stunning thumping of his opponent.
By comparison, in 2008, then-candidate Obama received 365 electoral college votes to 173 for John McCain. George W. Bush received 286 to John Kerry’s 251 in 2004, and Bill Clinton received 379 to Bob Dole’s 159 in 1996.
Although President Obama’s current number is very, very substantial, Republican comments in the aftermath of the election already seem to show they do not regard the president’s victory as a mandate that they must respect and take to heart. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, said in his public comments that the president now had another chance to come to the political center to work with Republicans on moving America forward, but that the president had to understand that compromise is a two-way street, and the Republicans intended to make no concessions against their principles.
“Now it’s time for the president to propose solutions that actually have a chance of passing the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a closely divided Senate, step up to the plate on the challenges of the moment, and deliver in a way that he did not in his first four years in office. To the extent he wants to move to the political center, which is where the work gets done in a divided government, we’ll be there to meet him halfway.”
John Boehner, Speaker of the House, added, “that by keeping Republicans in control of the House, voters made clear there is no mandate for raising taxes.”
“If there is a mandate,” he told the Associate Press, “it is a mandate for both parties to find common ground and take steps together to help our economy grow and create jobs.”
Five things are very clear in the election results, however, and need little interpretation:
1) The Democrats strategically out-organized the Republicans in the battleground states, winning all but North Carolina.
2) The Republicans seriously miscalculated who the 2012 electorate is and focused almost exclusively on White male voters. They got 72 percent of that group, but still lost pretty convincingly.
3) The Citizens United case influenced, but did not determine, the presidential election of 2012. This was the most expensive election in American history, with more than $2.6 billion spent during the two presidential runs, but money did not decide the winner.
4) President Obama does have significant political capital from this election. He is only the second Democrat to be re-elected to a second term since Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s (Bill Clinton was the other one ), and he is the first president since FDR to win election with a national unemployment rate above 7.8 percent
5) The Republicans lost several Senate races they were projected to win, and the Democrats increased their majority in the Senate while losing a few more seats in the House. The chances for more gridlocked government are great, but ObamaCare is safe, and so are the other major legislative achievements of President Obama’s first four years.
Conventional wisdom that the African American vote count would be discernibly less than in 2008 because the gay marriage issue distressed many Black ministers, proved not to be a factor. The Rev. Emanuel Cleaver II, an ordained minister, and the current head of the Congressional Black Caucus, had said in a recent interview with The Root before the election: “Will there be some Black voter drop because of the same-sex marriage issue? The answer is, unquestionably, yes. Will it be significant? No. Will Black folk vote for the president with some anger toward that position? Yes. But the Black voter is growing more sophisticated, in part because the president has been elevated to the highest office on the planet, so more Black Americans are paying attention now and in the last four years than in the past. They are sophisticated enough to know that it is not a smart move to reject an individual for public office on one issue, because they would be opposed to Mitt Romney on 313 issues and opposed to Obama on one. So I believe they will come out and vote, and some of them will vote and hold their noses.”
Clearly, the Rev. Cleaver was a prophet on this point and many voters stood in lines for more than seven hours to express their views.
Early exit polls showed that young people (ages 18-29) represented 19 percent of the voters, with President Obama winning the majority of those votes over Gov. Romney by 60 percent to 36 percent, according to the National Exit Poll (NEP) conducted by Edison Research. That figure was one point higher than in 2008, when young voters represented 18 percent in the presidential election, according to the NEP.
Mary Kay Henry, president of the 2.1-million member Service Employees International Union (SEIU) released this statement after the re-election of president:
“By re-electing President Barack Obama to lead our country, working people voted for a vibrant middle class fueled by good jobs, where everyone has a fair shot at the American Dream. Voters rejected the notion that the rich should be allowed to run roughshod over our economy with shameful tax breaks and let off the hook by not investing in America. In states like New Hampshire, Ohio and Nevada working people rejected Mitt Romney’s ‘your on your own’ vision and embraced a country where our deeds are guided by the core American value that ‘we’re all in this together.”
Similar sentiments were released by the American Federation of Teachers:
“The importance of this election was far greater than casting a ballot for one candidate over another–as important as that exercise in democracy is,” said a statement released by AFT President Randi Weingarten. “The American people voted to create opportunity and shared prosperity by sharing responsibility, and to reject the cynical ‘you’re on your own’ philosophy.
The results of this election are a declaration by the American people that to rebuild a strong and vibrant middle class and ensure a voice for all, we all have to be in this together. Americans voted for a vision for our nation that says government has an essential role that includes protecting our families in times of crisis, investing in public schools as a foundation of our democracy, guaranteeing access to affordable healthcare, and ensuring retirement with dignity after a lifetime of hard work.”
Moving on, the president, according to his acceptance speech Tuesday night, sees his major mandate as finishing the job he started in rescuing the nation’s economy and attracting more jobs, along with other projects that will come up. In his Tuesday night speech, he said:
“By itself the recognition that we have common hopes and dreams won’t end all the gridlock, or solve all our problems or substitute for the painstaking work of building consensus and making the difficult compromises needed to move this country forward.”
“But that common bond is where we must begin. Our economy is recovering. A decade of war is ending. A long campaign is now over, and whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you, I have learned from you and you have made me a better president.”
He should be helped in this regard by a new group of freshmen senators, including 10 new Democratic women.
With three Republican female senators (and one independent who caucuses with and votes with Republicans) added to the Democratic ones, the U.S. Senate will have the largest number of female senators in its history–20. Effectively, one-fifth of the U.S. Senate will be female in the 113th Congress, starting in January 2013.
These include: re-elected senators Maria Cantwell of Washington, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Dianne Feinstein of California.
Joining them in 2013 will be Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. Incumbents not up for re-election are Patty Murray of Washington State, Barbara Boxer of California, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, and Kay Hagan of North Carolina.
Republicans include newby Deb Fischer of Nebraska, alongside incumbents Susan Collins of Maine, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. (Murkowski is technically an independent; she won re-election as a write-in candidate, but caucuses with Republicans).
Exactly what difference that will make is still unknown, but women legislators do have the general reputation of being very good budgeters and negotiators.
Another important aspect of the Nov. 6 elections is that for the presidential decision, 71 percent of the voters within the large and growing Latino population voted for President Obama, while only 27 percent voted for Romney, and the African American vote was 93 percent for President Obama.
Women provided 55 percent of the national vote total for the president, and Jews 53 percent for Obama, while Romney got 72 percent of the White male vote. This was the first presidential election in which the minority group votes became the majority in many states.
The Republican Party may become irrelevant as a national political party, according to some pundits, if it does not correctly adjust itself to the realities of America’s modern demographic changes. White is right may not be enough anymore at the national level.