In the USA...
November 6, 2012President Obama’s Success
President Obama’s dramatic re-election victory was not a sign that a fractured nation had finally come together on Election Day. But it was a strong endorsement of economic policies that stress job growth, health care reform, tax increases and balanced deficit reduction — and of moderate policies on immigration, abortion and same-sex marriage. It was a repudiation of Reagan-era bromides about tax-cutting and trickle-down economics, and of the politics of fear, intolerance and disinformation.
The president’s victory depended heavily on Midwestern Rust Belt states like Ohio, where the bailout of the auto industry — which Mr. Obama engineered and Mr. Romney opposed — proved widely popular for the simple reason that it worked.
More broadly, Midwestern voters seemed to endorse the president’s argument that the government has a significant role in creating private-sector jobs and boosting the economy. They rejected Mr. Romney’s position that Washington should simply stay out of such matters and let the free market work its will.
The Republicans’ last-ditch attempt to steal away Pennsylvania by stressing unemployment was a failure there and elsewhere. Voters who said unemployment was a major issue voted mainly for Mr. Obama.
Mr. Romney, it turns out, made a fatal decision during the primaries to endorse a hard line on immigration, which earned him a resounding rejection by Latinos. By adopting a callous position that illegal immigrants could be coerced into “self-deportation,” and by praising Arizona’s cruel immigration law, Mr. Romney made his road in Florida and several other crucial states much harder. Only one-third of voters said illegal immigrants should all be deported, while two-thirds endorsed some path to legal residency and citizenship. The Republican approach, if unchanged, will cost them dearly in the future.
Still, Mr. Obama’s victory did not show a united country. Richer Americans supported Mr. Romney, while poorer Americans tended to vote for Mr. Obama. There also remained clear divisions among voters by gender, age, race and religion.
African-Americans and Hispanics overwhelmingly supported Mr. Obama. White men voted for Mr. Romney; he won among those who said they opposed gay marriage, wanted to outlaw abortion, or favored mass deportation of illegal immigrants. None of those are majority positions in this country anymore.
Mr. Romney’s strategy of blaming Mr. Obama for just about everything, while serenely assuring Americans he had a plan to cut the deficit without raising taxes or making major cuts in Medicare, simply did not work.
A solid majority of voters said President George W. Bush was to blame for the state of the economy rather than Mr. Obama. And voters showed more subtlety in their economic analysis than Mr. Romney probably expected. Those who thought the housing market and unemployment were the nation’s biggest problems said they voted for Mr. Obama. Those most concerned about taxes voted heavily for Mr. Romney.
Significantly, 60 percent of voters said taxes should be raised either on the rich or on everyone. Only 35 percent said they should not be raised at all; that group, naturally, went heavily for Mr. Romney. The polling made it clear that Americans were unhappy with the economic status quo, and substantial numbers of voters said the economy was getting worse. But Mr. Romney did not seem to persuade voters that the deficit was a crushing problem. Only 1 in 10 voters said the deficit was the most important issue facing the country.
Republicans had to be disappointed in the results of their unrelenting assault on Mr. Obama’s health care reform law. Only around a quarter of Americans said it should be repealed in its entirety.
People who were comfortable with the rightward slide of the Republican Party (as measured by their comfort with the Tea Party) voted heavily for Mr. Romney.
But Christopher Murphy’s victory over Linda McMahon in the Senate race in Connecticut, Joe Donnelly’s defeat of Richard Mourdock in Indiana’s Senate race and Claire McCaskill’s defeat of Todd Akin in the Missouri Senate race showed the price the Republicans are paying for nominating fringe candidates in their primaries.
The polls were heartening in that they indicated that a solid majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal, and that half of Americans now say their states should recognize marriages between same-sex couples.
That the race came down to a relatively small number of voters in a relatively small number of states did not speak well for a national election apparatus that is so dependent on badly engineered and badly managed voting systems around the country. The delays and breakdowns in voting machines were inexcusable.
November 07, 2012 04:00 PMA Stirring Populist Triumph
By Mike Lux
In the face of five years of the deepest economic troubles this nation has seen since the 1930s that put voters in a bad mood, and veritable floodgates of millionaire money unleashed by Citizens United (far, far surpassing anything in American history), an incumbent President won a clear victory and over 50% of the vote. Except for FDR in 1936, Barack Obama is the only other Democratic President to win re-election in an economy this tough, and he is the only one except for FDR and Andrew Jackson to get over 50% of the vote. And beyond the Presidency, with Democrats having to defend over twice as many seats in the Senate as the Republicans and pundits earlier in this cycle suggesting that a Republican Senate was practically a lock- and again with all those hundreds of millions of dollars of millionaires’ money spent against them- the Democrats actually look like they will be picking up 2 seats.
This remarkable historic achievement was accomplished with the kind of old fashioned middle class populism that modern day DC sophisticates have been saying for 25 years doesn’t work anymore.
Little more than a year ago, in the fall of 2011 after an ugly deal with the Republicans on the debt ceiling that had followed 2 earlier deals with the Republicans on the budget that left a bad taste in Democrats’ mouths, the President was at his lowest point politically. His poll numbers were bad, his base was upset, the swing voters he was trying to court thought he looked weak. The re-election looked like it was in deep trouble.
But the President made the right political decision and made clear he was fighting for the American middle class and those young and poor people who were striving to get into it. He channeled his inner Teddy Roosevelt, giving a speech that was a tribute to TR that was the kickoff for a yearlong campaign firmly rooted in the hopes and aspirations of working and middle class voters. He enthusiastically embraced the car company bailout that had been so unpopular when he had first done it. He started strongly defending Obamacare after Democrats had run from it- and been pilloried with it- in 2010. He recess appointed aggressive consumer watchdog Rich Cordray to the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and asked aggressive Wall Street prosecutor Eric Schneiderman to co-chair a new task force to investigate financial fraud. He hammered the Ryan budget for voucher-izing Medicare and block-granting Medicaid and cutting taxes for the wealthy. He stuck to his guns on boldly attacking Romney’s role at Bain Capital when Wall Street friendly Democrats were calling on him to back off. He started talking about, and working on, rebuilding our manufacturing base.
It worked. Turns out that both Democratic base voters and the mostly working class swing voters liked this new populist approach. So despite those tough odds that I discussed in the first paragraph, President Obama found his rhythm and found his way. After Mitt Romney, the perfect candidate to run a populist campaign against, became the Republican nominee, the Obama campaign established a small but steady lead in the key swing states which through all the ups and downs of a long tough campaign they never relinquished.
And how did we Democrats do so well in the Senate? By running as populist a group of candidates in many of the most competitive races as I have seen in my political career. And looking at the results in those races, it was for the most part those candidates who carved out a clear populist path that won the close races, and those that didn’t that lost them. The only partial exception I can think of is Tim Kaine, whose campaign focused a lot on bi-partisan reasonableness, although he also did tie himself closely to Obama’s populist campaign message. I also am less familiar with the themes from the Carmona-Flake race, so that may have been an exception to the trend as well. But look at the Dems who won the tough races in the Senate:
The headliner of the night besides the Presidential race was Elizabeth Warren. She is the ultimate in tough-on-Wall-St/fight for the middle class populists, having built her entire career around those kind of economic issues. She will be an instant leader in the Senate, with a huge national platform.
The Senate incumbent who was easily the most highly targeted by Karl Rove, the Chamber of Commerce, and right wing billionaires like the Koch brothers was the number one working class populist in the Senate, Sherrod Brown of Ohio. He kicked their collective asses in spite of their35 million plus onslaught against him.
Tammy Baldwin will get a lot of attention as the first openly lesbian Senator, but her campaign in Wisconsin was based on taking on Wall St. and fighting for regular folks- one of her main stump speech talking points was bragging about how she had opposed the repeal of Glass-Steagall. She was running against popular ex-Gov. Tommy Thompson, Rove and the Chamber and Gov. Walker political machine attacked her mercilessly, but she ended up winning a solid victory.
Chris Murphy took on the queen of the WWE and all her money, and beat her solidly. Murphy is one of the leaders in Congress on the big-money-in-politics issue, and his fighting against the special interests was what won him this race.
Heidi Heitkamp is a protégé of long time populist Wall St foe former Senator Dorgan, and she bucked a Romney landslide in ND to win against the sitting House member from ND. She will likely be the same kind of tough-minded fighter for the middle class Dorgan always was.
Martin Heinrich ran a populist race against a former Republican congresswoman who was supposed to give him a much tougher race, but he ended up winning easily, and will likely join fellow NM Senator Tom Udall as one of the leading progressive populists in the Senate.
Jon Tester bucked the MT political establishment 6 years ago to win both a primary and his Senate seat, and he apparently won a very tough re-election by going back to that kind of populism.
Who lost the other competitive Senate races? Shelley Berkeley, whose race seemed like it was more attack and counter-attack on personal issues with her opponent; and Bob Kerrey, who made cutting Social Security as a big plank in his platform.
This is the most firmly pro-middle class, tough on Wall Street and big business Senate class as we’ve had in a long time, and I couldn’t be more excited.
The President now has a choice to make. He can take the advice of the Washington establishment and punditry class, and go back to DC’s version of “centrism”, which to establishment folks usually means giving Wall Street and other big business lobbyists what they want while cutting things the middle class counts on like Social Security, Medicare, and education. Or he can stick with the political strategy that won him this election, uniting his base and working class swing voters in a coalition for the middle class and willing to take on the powers that be. Let’s hope he sticks with what worked so well for him in the past year.
November 8, 2012Obama Win Shows Demographic Shifts Working Against Republicans
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Tuesday's decisive win by Barack Obama in the U.S. presidential election highlighted how population shifts - ethnic and generational - have buoyed Democrats while forcing Republicans to rethink their message.
Without recasting their core message and actively trying to expand their base beyond older mostly white Americans, conservatives could struggle even more in future elections as the nation's population incorporates more Latinos, Asians and other minorities as well as young voters, analysts said.
First-time voters, including many young people and immigrants, favored the president by large margins, while older voters leaned to Republican Mitt Romney, Reuters/Ipsos Election Day polling showed.
Obama won an estimated 66 percent of the Hispanic vote, according to Reuters/Ipsos election day polling, at a time when the Latino population is growing rapidly in states such as Florida, one of eight or so politically divided states that were crucial in the presidential race. Other estimates put Obama's share of the Hispanic vote above 70 percent.
"The nonwhite vote has been growing - tick, tick, tick - slowly, steadily. Every four-year cycle the electorate gets a little bit more diverse. And it's going to continue," said Paul Taylor of the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.
"This is a very powerful demographic that's changing our politics and our destiny," Taylor said, adding that the number of white voters is expected to continue to decline a few points in each future election cycle.
Data has shown for years that the United States is poised to become a "majority minority" nation - with whites a minority of the country - over the next several decades. But Tuesday's results highlighted the political impact.(See http://link.reuters.com/hyd83t
for a graphic.)
About 80 percent of blacks, Latinos and other nonwhite voters cast their ballots for Obama on Tuesday compared with less than 17 percent for Romney, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling. Obama also won about 63 percent of total voters age 18 to 34.
Overall, Romney won nearly 57 percent of the white vote compared with 41 percent for Obama, the polling data showed. The vast majority of votes cast for Romney came from white voters.
Demographer William Frey said that division is troubling.
The United States has long history of racial divide stemming from its roots in slavery and including the civil rights battles of the 1960s.
"We still are a country that's kind of divided, and a lot of that fissure in the population tends to be based in race and age and ethnicity," said Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute. "There's kind of a dangerous result in this election when we see older whites moving in one direction and younger minorities moving in another direction."
Frey said he sees the gap less as racism and more as a cultural generation gap.
"It's a little bit of a warning sign that we need to pay attention to," he said.
A GROWING PRESENCE FOR MINORITIES
U.S. data released earlier this year showed the number of ethnic minority births topping 50 percent of the nation's total births for the first time..
It will be years before those newest Americans will be old enough to vote, but the demographic shift is clear. Most analysts project whites to be the racial U.S. minority sometime between 2040 and 2050.
Latinos, the fastest-growing demographic in the United States, are a huge factor.
More than 70 percent voted for Obama compared with about 28 percent for Romney, according to Reuters/Ipsos data.
"We are a much more diverse country than we were" just a generation or two ago, said Pew's Taylor, who also oversees the center's Social and Demographic Trends project and the Pew Hispanic Center. The rising number of multiracial children are also likely to become more of a factor, he added.
Obama, whose historic win in 2008 made him the first ethnic minority U.S. president, had a black father and a white mother.
Aging baby boomers also are a key factor in the demographic transition, as older voters "leave the electorate," as Taylor delicately put it, and young voters more accepting of diversity and an active government are added to the rolls.
That could help drive certain civil rights ballot initiatives, like votes in Maryland and Maine on Tuesday to approve same-sex marriage. In each instance, support from younger voters helped put the measures over the top.
"It was an election in which the future won over the past," said Marshall Ganz, a Harvard University lecturer on public policy, said of Tuesday's various contests.
'A RECIPE FOR EXTINCTION'?
Tuesday's outcome poses big questions for Republicans as they seek new national leaders and prepare for the next congressional election in 2014 and beyond.
Conservatives' stance against immigration reform and gay marriage is "a recipe for extinction," said analyst Mike Murphy, a one-time adviser to prominent Republicans including Arizona Senator John McCain, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, former New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitman and Romney, a former Massachusetts governor.
"The question is whether or not we're going to have an adult conversation inside the party about our need to attract more people than grumpy old white guys," Murphy told MSNBC. "Demographically, our time is running out."
Ted Cruz, a Latino Republican elected to the U.S. Senate from Texas, said on CBS that his party had to recruit candidates who connect with that community in a "real and genuine way."
Not all Republicans were willing to concede to demographics. Some highlighted tactical and strategic issues in their lost bid for the White House and their failed efforts to take control of the U.S. Senate.
And analysts said Democrats, too, have lessons to learn.
"It is a very powerful wake-up call to both political parties," said Pew's Taylor.
Brookings' Frey said Democrats still must keep the white vote in mind for at least the next couple of election cycles.
"Whites are not dead," he said. "They're still a big part of this population."
(Additional reporting by Ros Krasny and Gabriel Debenedetti in Washington; and David Adams in Miami; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
November 7, 2012A Record Latino Turnout, Solidly Backing Obama
By JULIA PRESTON and FERNANDA SANTOS
Defying predictions that their participation would be lackluster, Latinos turned out in record numbers on Tuesday and voted for President Obama by broad margins, tipping the balance in at least three swing states and securing their position as an organized force in American politics with the power to move national elections.
Over all, according to exit polls not yet finalized by Edison Research, Mr. Obama won 71 percent of the Hispanic vote while Mitt Romney won 27 percent. The gap of 44 percentage points was even greater than Mr. Obama’s 36-point advantage over John McCain in 2008.
After waiting in long lines in countless places — more than four hours at some South Florida polls — Latinos had such a strong turnout that it lifted them to 10 percent of voters nationwide, an increase from 6 percent in 2000. Latino leaders said their voters had cast ballots that ensured Mr. Obama’s relatively narrow plurality — fewer than 2.8 million votes — in the popular count.
“Latino voters confirmed unequivocally that the road to the White House passes through Latino neighborhoods,” said Clarissa Martinez De Castro, a top official at NCLR, the Hispanic organization also known as the National Council of La Raza, which joined in an extensive campaign this year to register and turn out voters.
Latinos’ greatest impact was in several battleground states portrayed by polls as close contests before Election Day. In Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, Mr. Obama won the Hispanic vote by big percentages that well exceeded margins of victory, exit polls showed. In each of those states, Latinos significantly increased their share of total voters, gaining influence that could be decisive in future elections.
In Florida, where Mr. Obama held a narrow lead on Wednesday in a race that had not yet been called, the president won among Latinos by 60 percent to 39 percent for Mr. Romney, among a group that now makes up 17 percent of the state’s voters.
Mr. Romney’s weak showing prompted Latino leaders to warn that Republicans could no longer afford to ignore or alienate Hispanics in national races. But they also immediately laid out an ambitious agenda for Mr. Obama, saying they expected to see jobs programs tailored to Latinos and quick action on legislation to give legal status to millions of illegal immigrants.
“The sleeping Latino giant is wide-awake and it’s cranky,” said Eliseo Medina, international secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union, another group that played a central role in spurring Latinos to vote. “We expect action and leadership on immigration reform in 2013. No more excuses. No more obstruction or gridlock.”
In many states, Latinos did not wait for either the Democratic or the Republican campaigns to come to them. Instead they mounted coordinated voter registration and education efforts, giving them a degree of independence as a voting bloc and creating popular networks that they said they planned to mobilize again to bring pressure on the White House and Congress.
In Arizona, a conservative state known for tough immigration enforcement policies that Mr. Romney won handily, Latinos saw setbacks. A bid to unseat Joe Arpaio, the hard-line sheriff of Maricopa County, was declared to have failed. A Hispanic Democrat, Richard Carmona, apparently was defeated in a Senate race by Jeff Flake, a popular Republican who has served in the House of Representatives.
Records from the office of Secretary of State Ken Bennett showed Wednesday that there were 600,000 votes yet to be counted statewide.
Luis Heredia, the executive director of the Arizona Democratic Party, said the outcome of many close races could not be determined without the counting of those ballots.
A crucial piece of Mr. Obama’s winning strategy among Latinos was an initiative he announced in June to grant temporary reprieves from deportation to hundreds of thousands of young immigrants here illegally. In a survey of 5,600 Latino voters on the eve of the election by ImpreMedia and Latino Decisions, a polling group, 58 percent said the reprieves had made them “more enthusiastic” about Mr. Obama.
Last month, Mr. Romney said that he would end the reprieves if he became president, a move that solidified the view among many Latinos that he was hostile to a program they liked. It gives young immigrants protection from deportation for two years and also work permits that allow them to be employed legally in this country for the first time.
A campaign led by young immigrants eligible for the deferrals was one of the most effective voter mobilization efforts.
“Even though we could not vote, we had many friends and family members who could,” said Lorella Praeli, advocacy director of the United We Dream network, a youth group that led a voter campaign.
In Arizona, a dozen groups teamed up to increase Latino voter registration and to add more Latinos to the state’s early-voting list, which entitles voters to receive ballots by mail at their homes. The number of Latinos on early-voting lists rose substantially, to 225,000 this year from 96,000 in 2008, said Petra Falcón, director of Promise Arizona, one of the groups in that effort.
On Tuesday, the groups dispatched monitors to poll sites where they knew many Latino voters would be casting ballots for the first time.
By midmorning, it had become clear that a lot of them were being forced to cast provisional ballots because officials could not find their names on the rolls. In a precinct in Tolleson, 300 out of 342 votes cast by 4 p.m. were provisional ballots, according to poll monitors assigned to the site. At Word of Abundant Life Christian Center in West Phoenix, 68 out of 123 voters had used provisional ballots by that hour.
Adilene Montesinos, a poll worker at Progressive Baptist Church in Mesa, said the problem had affected Latinos and also blacks. “There were so many, we almost ran out of provisional ballots,” Ms. Montesinos said.
Officials in Maricopa County, which accounts for more than half of the state’s voters, said the count of provisional ballots was not likely to begin until Monday. The officials said Wednesday that 344,000 ballots remained to be counted, among them 115,000 provisional ballots.
November 7, 2012Back to Work, Obama Is Greeted by Looming Crisis
By JACKIE CALMES and PETER BAKER
Newly re-elected, President Obama moved quickly on Wednesday to open negotiations with Congressional Republican leaders over the main unfinished business of his term — a major deficit-reduction deal to avert a looming fiscal crisis — as he began preparing for a second term that will include significant cabinet changes.
Mr. Obama, while still at home in Chicago at midday, called Speaker John A. Boehner in what was described as a brief and cordial exchange on the need to reach some budget compromise in the lame-duck session of Congress starting next week. Later at the Capitol, Mr. Boehner publicly responded before assembled reporters with his most explicit and conciliatory offer to date on Republicans’ willingness to raise tax revenues, but not top rates, together with a spending cut package.
“Mr. President, this is your moment,” said Mr. Boehner, a day after Congressional Republicans suffered election losses but kept their House majority. “We’re ready to be led — not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans. We want you to lead, not as a liberal or a conservative, but as president of the United States of America.”
His statement came a few hours after Senator Harry Reid, leader of a Democratic Senate majority that made unexpected gains, extended his own olive branch to the opposition. While saying that Democrats would not be pushed around, Mr. Reid, a former boxer, added, “It’s better to dance than to fight.”
Both men’s remarks followed Mr. Obama’s own overture in his victory speech after midnight on Wednesday. “In the coming weeks and months,” he said, “I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together: reducing our deficit, reforming our tax code, fixing our immigration system, freeing ourselves from foreign oil.”
After his speech, Mr. Obama tried to call both Mr. Boehner and the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, but was told they were asleep. The efforts from both sides, after a long and exhausting campaign, suggested the urgency of acting in the few weeks before roughly $700 billion in automatic tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts take effect at year’s end — the “fiscal cliff.” A failure to reach agreement could arrest the economic recovery.
Corporate America and financial markets for months have been dreading the prospect of a partisan impasse. Stocks fell on Wednesday, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index closing down 2.4 percent. The reasons for the drop were unclear, given that stock futures did not drop significantly on Tuesday night as the election results became clear. Analysts cited fears about the economic impact of such big federal spending cuts and tax increases, but also about new economic troubles in Europe.
While Mr. Obama enters the next fray with heightened leverage, both sides agree, the coming negotiations hold big risks for both parties and for the president’s ability to pursue other priorities in a new term, like investments in education and research, and an overhaul of immigration law.
The president flew back to Washington from Chicago late on Wednesday, his post-election relief reflected in a playful race up the steps of Air Force One with his younger daughter, Sasha. At the White House, he prepared to shake up his staff to help him tackle daunting economic and international challenges. He will study lists of candidates for various positions that a senior adviser, Pete Rouse, assembled in recent weeks as Mr. Obama crisscrossed the country campaigning.
The most prominent members of his cabinet will leave soon. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner long ago said they would depart after the first term, and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, previously the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, has signaled that he wants to return to California in the coming year. Also expected to depart is David Plouffe, one of the president’s closest confidants.
Mr. Obama is expected to reshuffle both his inner circle and his economic team as he accommodates the changes. For example, Jacob J. Lew, Mr. Obama’s current White House chief of staff and former budget director, is said to be a prime candidate to become Treasury secretary. For the foreseeable future, the holder of that job is likely to be at the center of budget negotiations, and Mr. Lew has experience in such bargaining dating to his work as a senior adviser to Congressional Democrats 30 years ago in bipartisan talks with President Ronald Reagan.
“They’ve been thinking about this for some time and they’re going to have a lot of positions to fill at the highest levels,” said former Senator Tom Daschle, who has close ties to the White House.
Both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush ended up replacing about half of their cabinet members between terms, and Mr. Obama could end up doing about the same, especially since his team has served through wars and economic crisis. John D. Podesta, a chief of staff for Mr. Clinton and Mr. Obama’s transition adviser, said, “There’s a certain amount of new energy you want to inject into any team.”
There is talk about bringing in Republicans and business executives to help rebuild bridges to both camps. The one Republican in the cabinet now, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, has said he will leave. One possible candidate, advisers say, could be Senator Olympia J. Snowe, a Republican moderate from Maine who is retiring.
A front-runner for secretary of state appears to be Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Democrats said worries about losing his Senate seat to the Republicans in a special election had diminished with Tuesday’s victories. Another candidate has been Susan E. Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, but she has been a target of Republicans since she provided the administration’s initial accounts, which proved to be wrong, of the September terrorist attack on the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.
While no one in the White House blames her, “she’s crippled,” said one adviser who asked not to be named discussing personnel matters. Another possible candidate, Thomas E. Donilon, the national security adviser, has told Mr. Obama he wants to stay in his current position, according to a White House official.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., once expected to leave, now seems more likely to stay for a while. Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, would like to be attorney general and is widely respected in the White House.
Among other cabinet officers who may leave are Ron Kirk, the trade representative; Steven Chu, the energy secretary; Ken Salazar, the interior secretary; Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary, and Lisa P. Jackson, the Environmental Protection Agency chief. But Valerie Jarrett, the president’s longtime friend and senior adviser, plans to stay, according to Democrats close to her.
It may be weeks before Mr. Obama starts making personnel announcements. His first priority is policy, and its politics — positioning for the budget showdown in the lame-duck session, to try to avoid the fiscal cliff by agreeing with Republicans to alternative deficit-reduction measures.
If Mr. Obama got a mandate for anything after a campaign in which he was vague on second-term prescriptions, he can and will claim one for his argument that wealthy Americans like himself and his vanquished Republican rival, Mitt Romney, should pay higher income taxes. That stance was a staple of Mr. Obama’s campaign stump speeches for more than a year. And most voters, in surveys of those leaving the polls on Tuesday, agreed with him.
Specifically, Mr. Obama has called — over Republicans’ objections — for extending the Bush-era income tax cuts, which expire Dec. 31, only for households with taxable income below $250,000 a year.
“This election tells us a lot about the political wisdom of defending tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of everything else,” a senior administration official said early on Wednesday.
But Mr. Boehner, in his public remarks on Wednesday, sought to avoid a White House tax trap that would have Republicans boxed in as defenders of the wealthy at the expense of everyone else.
Speaking for Republicans after a conference call with his Congressional colleagues, Mr. Boehner said he was ready to accept a budget deal that raised federal revenues, but not the top rates on high incomes. And the deal, he said, also would have to overhaul both the tax code and programs like Medicare and Medicaid, whose growth as the population ages is driving projections of unsustainable future debt.
Instead of allowing the top rates to go up, which Republicans say would harm the economy, Mr. Boehner said Washington should end some deductions and loopholes to raise revenues. The economic growth that would result from a significant deficit reduction compromise would bring in additional revenues as well, he said.
Mr. Boehner entered the ornate Capitol room with none of his usual bonhomie, walked to a lectern and spoke in formal tones from two Teleprompters. He then hastened out of the room, ignoring shouted questions.
Jonathan Weisman contributed reporting.
November 7, 2012Senate Races Expose Extent of Republicans’ Gender Gap
By JENNIFER STEINHAUER
Republicans, hoping to gain seats in the Senate, knew that their limited appeal among minorities would be a problem, as would party infighting. But they did not expect to be derailed by the definition of rape.
Comments by two Republican Senate candidates concerning pregnancies that result from rape — which came after months of battles in Congress over abortion, financing for contraception and a once-innocuous piece of legislation to protect victims of domestic violence — turned contagious as one Senate candidate after another fell short of victory.
In Indiana and Missouri, where voters are reliably conservative, Republicans lost their Senate battles even as many of those voters rejected President Obama. In Wisconsin, the Republican candidate, a former governor, lost to a female lawmaker who is decidedly more liberal than much of the state. In Connecticut, women over all turned against a Republican candidate who frequently reminded voters that she was a grandmother.
Being a woman did not offset being a Republican when it came to winning many Congressional seats among female voters. While one Republican woman, Deb Fischer of Nebraska, will join the Senate in January, Democrats will add four women as senators, including Heidi Heitkamp, who was declared the winner in the race for North Dakota’s open Senate seat, the last undecided contest. There are currently 17 women in the Senate; two of them, both Republicans, are retiring.
Republicans in the House entered the election with just 24 women. Now, unless another one prevails in late tallies, there will be 21. By contrast, there are 52 women among the Democrats in the House, and 61 are expected in the next Congress.
Some Republicans conceded that they had worked to marginalize Representative Todd Akin after he suggested during his failed bid for a Senate seat in Missouri that a woman’s body was able to prevent a pregnancy resulting from “legitimate rape.” They did so because they were worried that their party was increasingly seen among voters as preoccupied with issues like the one sponsored by Republicans in Virginia that would have required women to undergo vaginal sonograms before they could have an abortion.
“We have a significant problem with female voters,” said John Weaver, a senior Republican strategist. Mr. Akin’s comments, Mr. Weaver said, “did not seem like outliers.” Nor, he added, were those made by Richard E. Mourdock, whose Senate campaign in Indiana was derailed in spectacular fashion after he said in a debate that it was “God’s will” when a pregnancy resulted from rape.
“They did not seem foreign to our party,” Mr. Weaver said. “They seemed representative of our party.”
The comments had resonance, some Republicans said, in part because Democrats, seizing on the remarks and repeating them, worked hard to tar the entire party as being insensitive to women.
Congressional Republicans’ heavy focus on social issues affecting women — like their proposals to reduce financing for Planned Parenthood and their challenge of an Obama administration ruling requiring insurance coverage for contraception — set the groundwork for those perceptions.
“What was really frustrating is that there was this myth manufactured by Democrats in Washington that the Republican Party as a whole is against women,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, who said she watched with disappointment as her friend Senator Scott P. Brown of Massachusetts was tarred by the broader fight and lost his bid for re-election, to a woman. “There is no doubt we need to do a better job as a party in reaching out to women, recruiting strong women candidates and sending a more positive message,” Ms. Collins said.
Women were not just turned off by perceived threats to their reproductive rights, Mr. Weaver said, but also by the tough tone that the party has taken toward immigrants and the poor.
“We have to reach across a whole host of policy reforms,” he said. “For instance, immigration may not seem like a women’s issue, but as Ronald Reagan and Bush 41 and Bush 43 for a while seemed to understand is that when you reach out to one group it helps you across the board. We need to be changing our tone, to be standing for something and not just against things. We can be for health care and for equal pay for equal work without undermining our conservative principles.”
The problem with female voters was reflected at the top of the ticket: Mr. Obama beat Mitt Romney by 11 points among women.
The numbers also lined up against Republicans in Congressional races. In Indiana, Mr. Mourdock’s opponent, Representative Joe Donnelly, won 53 percent of women’s votes, compared with Mr. Mourdock’s 41 percent, in a state that Mr. Romney won handily.
In the Connecticut Senate race, men were evenly divided, 49 percent to 49 percent, but women favored the Democratic candidate, Representative Christopher S. Murphy, 60 percent to 39 percent, over the Republican, Linda E. McMahon.
In Virginia, 56 percent of women voted for the Democrat, Tim Kaine, and 44 percent went to George Allen, the Republican, who lost the race.
Some Democrats, after months of relentless criticism of Republicans on women’s issues, played down the importance of those concerns on Wednesday, preferring instead to credit the candidates they recruited. “Offensive comments from Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock did not decide this election,” said Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Either way, Republicans said their party had work to do. “It has never made sense that my party, the party of individual freedom and personal responsibility, thinks the government should be involved in issues” like abortion, Ms. Collins said. “We are the party that trusts individuals to make their own decisions. That is one of the defining issues of the differences between Republicans and Democrats. So this is just bewildering to me.”
****************Obama sets out to tackle bitterly divided Congress
By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, November 8, 2012 7:29 EST
After the short-lived euphoria of his re-election, President Barack Obama immediately set about the daunting task of ending the partisan gridlock of a bitterly divided US Congress..
Before leaving Chicago and returning to the White House Wednesday, Obama was already on the phone trying to bridge the gap with Republican leaders to avoid a catastrophic “fiscal cliff” that could plunge the fragile American economy back into recession.
A combination of dramatic spending cuts and tax increases will take effect on January 1 without a deal on reducing the ballooning budget deficit, with Democrats and Republicans in Congress locked in a who-blinks-first stand-off.
Obama called congressional leaders, sending out an overt message that his priority was to try to break the deadlock in the lame-duck session of Congress that precedes his January 21 inauguration ceremony.
He spoke to Republican House Speaker John Boehner and also telephoned the minority Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, as well as top Democrats.
“The president reiterated his commitment to finding bipartisan solutions to reduce our deficit in a balanced way, cut taxes for middle class families and small businesses and create jobs,” a White House official said.
Obama believes that by returning him to the Oval Office, American voters signaled to Washington that both parties must set aside partisan interests and put the economy first, the official said.
But Boehner offered little during a Wednesday press conference in which his opening gambit was an unpalatable short-term fix to the “fiscal cliff” that the president has repeatedly opposed.
Obama arrived back at the White House at 2355 GMT following his unexpectedly decisive victory, claiming almost all the states he won in his historic 2008 electoral college landslide.
A campaign official said on the flight that election night returns unfolded very close to what the Obama team had expected though there was surprise at how quickly US television networks called the race.
Key to victory was the “ground game” waged in battleground states.
In explaining the superiority of Obama’s operation, the official mentioned a conversation he had with a top field director on Monday, in which he said a rival Republican had tweeted that Romney’s team had knocked on 75,000 doors in the must-win state of Ohio the previous day.
Not to worry, the director said, “we knocked on 376,000.”
Obama triumphed despite the highest unemployment rate of any US president since Franklin Roosevelt in 1936 and became only the second Democrat since then to win a second term — the other being his stalwart supporter Bill Clinton.
With Florida still totaling up the last remaining ballots after another embarrassing vote-counting debacle in the “Sunshine State,” Obama had 303 electoral college votes, easily surpassing the 270 needed to win.
In a soaring victory speech, the 51-year-old president sought to revive the great hopes he stirred in 2008, promising “the best is yet to come” and hinting at a far-reaching agenda in his second term.
But his in-tray is already overflowing with first-term plans thwarted by blanket Republican opposition, whether it be comprehensive immigration reform, education, or a grand plan to rein in the troublesome deficit.
The big question for Obama is this: Will the Republicans be willing or can they be pressured to strike a meaningful deal that will avoid the prospect of a disastrous economic crunch forced by mandatory budget cuts?
“In the weeks ahead, I also look forward to sitting down with Governor Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward,” the president told the country in his rousing acceptance speech.
But Obama knows it is not his vanquished foe that he must now deal with but rather the Republican leadership in Congress, which may dig its heels in after failing in its stated goal: to make him a one-term president.
As Obama’s victory was confirmed with wins in Ohio and Iowa, large crowds assembled outside the White House, chanting “four more years” and “O-bama, O-bama.”
Republican nominee Romney, 65, deflated and exhausted, offered a dignified tribute, as he consoled dejected supporters in Boston moments after phoning Obama to formally concede.
“This is a time of great challenges for America and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation,” Romney said.
Obama’s victory means he will get the chance to embed his healthcare and Wall Street reforms deep into the fabric of American life. Romney had pledged one of his first acts would be to repeal Obamacare.
The president may also be able to reshape the Supreme Court in his liberal image for a generation, a move that could shape policy on abortion and gay rights.
Obama will also face a challenge early in 2013 over whether to use military force to thwart Iran’s nuclear program.
The president ran for re-election on a platform of offering a “fair shot” to the middle class, of fulfilling his pledge to end the war in Iraq, killing Osama bin Laden, and starting to build a clean energy economy.
But Obama also ran a fiercely negative campaign branding Romney — a multi-millionaire former corporate turnaround wizard and ex-governor of Massachusetts — as indifferent to the woes of ordinary Americans.
Remarkably, Obama’s coalition of Hispanic, black, and young voters turned out in similar numbers to those of his heady change-fueled campaign in 2008, shocking Romney’s team and presenting a new American face to the world.
In what is likely to be Obama’s first foreign trip since re-election, a Myanmar government official announced that the US president would visit the former pariah state on November 19.
Democrats kept the Senate in Tuesday’s vote but fell short of the 60-vote super-majority needed to sidestep Republican blocking tactics.
And on a night that saw liberal-championed measures on same-sex marriage and legalizing marijuana approved in several states, the Democrats also clawed back a couple of seats in the House but the Republicans retained control.