November 6, 2012Obama Wins New Term as Electoral Advantage Holds
By JEFF ZELENY and JIM RUTENBERG
Barack Hussein Obama was re-elected president of the United States on Tuesday, overcoming powerful economic headwinds, a lock-step resistance to his agenda by Republicans in Congress and an unprecedented torrent of advertising as a divided nation voted to give him more time.
In defeating Mitt Romney, the president carried Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia and Wisconsin, a near sweep of the battleground states, and was holding a narrow advantage in Florida. The path to victory for Mr. Romney narrowed as the night wore along, with Mr. Obama winning at least 303 electoral votes.
A cheer of jubilation sounded at the Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago when the television networks began projecting him as the winner at 11:20 p.m., even as the ballots were still being counted in many states where voters had waited in line well into the night. The victory was far narrower than his historic election four years ago, but it was no less dramatic.
“Tonight in this election, you, the American people, reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back,” Mr. Obama told his supporters early Wednesday. “We know in our hearts that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come.”
Mr. Obama’s re-election extended his place in history, carrying the tenure of the nation’s first black president into a second term. His path followed a pattern that has been an arc to his political career: faltering when he seemed to be at his strongest — the period before his first debate with Mr. Romney — before he redoubled his efforts to lift himself and his supporters to victory.
The evening was not without the drama that has come to mark so many recent elections: For more than 90 minutes after the networks projected Mr. Obama as the winner, Mr. Romney held off calling him to concede. And as the president waited to declare victory in Chicago, Mr. Romney’s aides were prepared to head to the airport, suitcases packed, potentially to contest several close results.
But as it became increasingly clear that no amount of contesting would bring him victory, he called Mr. Obama to concede shortly before 1 a.m.
“I wish all of them well, but particularly the president, the first lady and their daughters,” Mr. Romney told his supporters in Boston. “This is a time of great challenges for America, and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation.”
Hispanics made up an important part of Mr. Obama’s winning coalition, preliminary exit poll data showed. And before the night was through, there were already recriminations from Republican moderates who said Mr. Romney had gone too far during the primaries in his statements against those here illegally, including his promise that his get-tough policies would cause some to “self-deport.”
Mr. Obama, 51, faces governing in a deeply divided country and a partisan-rich capital, where Republicans retained their majority in the House and Democrats kept their control of the Senate. His re-election offers him a second chance that will quickly be tested, given the rapidly escalating fiscal showdown.
For Mr. Obama, the result brings a ratification of his sweeping health care act, which Mr. Romney had vowed to repeal. The law will now continue on course toward nearly full implementation in 2014, promising to change significantly the way medical services are administrated nationwide.
Confident that the economy is finally on a true path toward stability, Mr. Obama and his aides have hinted that he would seek to tackle some of the grand but unrealized promises of his first campaign, including the sort of immigration overhaul that has eluded presidents of both parties for decades.
But he will be venturing back into a Congressional environment similar to that of his first term, with the Senate under the control of Democrats and the House under the control of Republicans, whose leaders have hinted that they will be no less likely to challenge him than they were during the last four years.
The state-by-state pursuit of 270 electoral votes was being closely tracked by both campaigns, with Mr. Romney winning North Carolina and Indiana, which Mr. Obama carried four years ago. But Mr. Obama won Michigan, the state where Mr. Romney was born, and Minnesota, a pair of states that Republican groups had spent millions trying to make competitive.
Americans delivered a final judgment on a long and bitter campaign that drew so many people to the polls that several key states extended voting for hours. In Virginia and Florida, long lines stretched from polling places, with the Obama campaign sending text messages to supporters in those areas, saying: “You can still vote.”
Neither party could predict how the outcome would affect the direction of the Republican Party. Moderates were hopeful it would lead the rank and file to realize that the party’s grass-roots conservatism that Mr. Romney pledged himself to during the primaries doomed him in the general election. Tea Party adherents have indicated that they will argue that he was damaged because of his move to middle ground during the general election.
As he delivered his brief concession speech early Wednesday, Mr. Romney did not directly address the challenges facing Republicans. His advisers said that his second failed quest for the White House would be his last, with his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, standing as one of the leaders of the party.
“We have given our all to this campaign,” said Mr. Romney, stoic and gracious in his remarks. “I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead this country in a different direction.”
The results were more a matter of voters giving Mr. Obama more time than a second chance. Through most of the year slight majorities of voters had told pollsters that they believed his policies would improve the economy if they could stay in place into the future.
Mr. Obama’s campaign team built its coalition the hard way, through intensive efforts to find and motivate supporters who had lost the ardor of four years ago and, Mr. Obama’s strategists feared, might not find their way to polls if left to their own devices.
Up against real enthusiasm for Mr. Romney — or, just as important, against Mr. Obama — among Republicans and many independents, their strategy of spending vast sums of money on their get-out-the-vote operation seemed vindicated on Tuesday.
As opinion surveys that followed the first debate between Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama showed a tightening race, Mr. Obama’s team had insisted that its coalition was coming together as it hoped it would. In the end, it was not a bluff.
Even with Mr. Obama pulling off a new sweep of the highly contested battlegrounds from Nevada to New Hampshire, the result in each of the states was very narrow. The Romney campaign was taking its time early Wednesday to review the outcome and searching for any irregularities.
The top issue on the minds of voters was the economy, according to interviews, with three-quarters saying that economic conditions were not good or poor. But only 3 in 10 said things were getting worse, and 4 in 10 said the economy was improving.
Mr. Romney, who campaigned aggressively on his ability to turn around the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression, was given a narrow edge when voters were asked which candidate was better equipped to handle the economy, the interviews found.
The electorate was split along partisan lines over a question that drove much of the campaign debate: whether it was Mr. Obama or his predecessor, George W. Bush, who bore the most responsibility for the nation’s continued economic challenges. About 4 in 10 independent voters said that Mr. Bush should be held responsible.
The president built a muscular campaign organization and used a strong financial advantage to hold off an array of forces that opposed his candidacy. The margin of his victory was smaller than in 2008 — he held an advantage of about 700,000 in the popular vote early Wednesday — but a strategic firewall in several battleground states protected his Electoral College majority.
As Mr. Romney gained steam and stature in the final weeks of the campaign, the Obama campaign put its hopes in perhaps one thing above all others: that the rebound in the auto industry after the president’s bailout package of 2009 would give him the winning edge in Ohio, a linchpin of his road to re-election.
Early interviews with voters showed that just over half of Ohio voters approved of the bailout, a result that was balanced by a less encouraging sign for the president: Some 4 in 10 said they or someone in their household had lost a job over the last four years.
He defeated Mr. Romney 52 percent to 47 percent in Hamilton County, home to Cincinnati, but only because of the number of votes he banked in the month leading up to Election Day.
Mr. Obama won despite losing some of his 2008 margins among his key constituencies, including among younger voters, blacks and Jewish voters, yet he appeared to increase his share among Hispanics and Asians. Early exit poll results showed Latinos representing about 1 in 10 voters nationwide, and voting for Mr. Obama in greater numbers than four years ago, making a difference in several states, including Colorado and Florida.
He held on to female voters, according to preliminary exit polls conducted by Edison Research, but he struggled even more among white men than he did four years ago.
Mr. Romney’s coalition included disproportionate support from whites, men, older people, high-income voters, evangelicals, those from suburban and rural counties, and those who call themselves adherents of the Tea Party — a group that had resisted him through the primaries but had fully embraced him by Election Day.
The Republican Party seemed destined for a new round of self-reflection over how it approaches Hispanics going forward, a fast-growing portion of the voting population that senior party strategists had sought to woo before a strain of intense activism against illegal immigration took hold within the Republican grass roots.
It was the first presidential election since the 2010 Supreme Court decision loosening restrictions on political spending, and the first in which both major-party candidates opted out of the campaign matching system that imposes spending limits in return for federal financing. And the overall cost of the campaign rose accordingly, with all candidates for federal office, their parties and their supportive “super PACs” spending more than $6 billion combined.
The results Tuesday were certain to be parsed for days to determine just what effect the spending had, and who would be more irate at the answer — the donors who spent millions of dollars of their own money for a certain outcome, or those who found a barrage of negative advertising to be major factors in their defeats.
While the campaign often seemed small and petty, with Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama intensely quarreling and bickering, the contest was actually rooted in big and consequential decisions, with the role of the federal government squarely at the center of the debate.
Though Mr. Obama’s health care law galvanized his most ardent opposition, and continually drew low ratings in polls as a whole, interviews with voters found that nearly half wanted to see it kept intact or expanded, a quarter wanted to see it repealed entirely and another quarter said they wanted portions of it repealed.
In Chicago, as crowds waited for Mr. Obama to deliver his speech, his supporters erupted into a roar of relief and elation. Car horns honked from the street as people chanted the president’s name.
“I feel like it’s a repudiation of everything the Republicans said in the campaign,” said Jasmyne Walker, 31, who jumped up and down on the edge of a stone planter in a downtown plaza. “Everybody said that if he lost it would be buyer’s remorse — that we were high on hope in 2008. This says we’re on the right track. I feel like this confirms that.”
Michael Cooper contributed reporting.
Click to watch Obama's victory speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddx8t6zGWxA
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.
11/07/2012 08:48 AMPresidential Election in US: Europe Welcomes Obama's Win
Europe was quick to congratulate US President Barack Obama on Wednesday morning as he won his re-election battle against Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Markets in European capitals appeared poised for a rally, but dark clouds loom ahead.
In the end, it wasn't even that close. US President Barack Obama easily surpassed the 270 electoral votes he needed to defeat Republican challenger Mitt Romney on Tuesday evening as swing state after swing state fell into the incumbent's column. At just after 1 a.m. on the East Coast, with his deficit insurmountable, Romney conceded defeat.
"This is a time of great challenges for America and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation," Romney said in remarks before supporters in Boston. "I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead the country in a different direction, but the nation chose another leader." Just prior to his concession speech, Romney had called Obama to congratulate him.
European stock futures signalled a strong opening on Wednesday morning on the news as the uncertainty hanging over the leadership of the US economy was removed. Analysts, however, fear that the bump will be short-lived as the first challenge of Obama's second term approaches, that of coming to agreement with Republicans on a deficit reduction deal to dodge the $600 billion in spending cuts and tax increases that will automatically go into effect on Jan. 2, 2013 in the absence of such a deal.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel sent a letter to Obama on Wednesday morning to congratulate him on his victory. She noted how relations had always been close and cordial with Obama. "I am pleased to be able to continue with this," she wrote. "I would be pleased to host you again as my guest in Germany." She said the two had a common task in managing the global financial and economic crisis, the military and reconstruction mission in Afghanistan and the challenges posed by Iran's nuclear program.
In France, President François Hollande said Obama's re-election had been a "clear choice for an open, united America that is totally engaged on the international scene." According to the news agency AFP, he said that Obama's victory would "once again reinforce our partnership to facilitate the return of economic growth in our countries, to fight unemployment and to find solutions to crises that threaten us, notably in the Middle East."
Meanwhile, former German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, now prominent member of the political opposition, said it is time for Europe to invest more in the trans-Atlantic relationship. "We have an interest in Europe remaining important which is why we have to invest more in cooperation across the Atlantic," said Steinmeier, who is currently the floor leader for the opposition Social Democrats in parliament. "We are always pouting in the corner waiting for the Americans to redefine the trans-Atlantic relationship."
Steinmeier, speaking on German public television station ARD, welcomed Obama's re-election, saying "I was concerned that a President Romney would have further divided an already fractured country."
Congratulations from Europe
European Union leaders likewise released a statement on Wednesday morning congratulating Obama. "We have the pleasure of extending our warm congratulations to President Obama on his re-election as president of the United States of America," read the statement released by European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy. "The United States is a key strategic partner of the European Union and we look forward to continuing the close cooperation established with President Obama over these last four years, to further strengthening our bilateral ties and to jointly addressing global challenges, including in the fields of security and economy."
Despite trailing slightly in the popular vote with some 70 percent of precincts across the US reporting, Obama managed an almost complete sweep of the nine swing states which appeared to be teetering between the two candidates on the eve of the vote. Obama took Ohio, Wisconsin, Virginia, Iowa, New Hampshire, Colorado and Nevada, ceding only North Carolina to Romney. Florida remains too close to call.
Obama thanked his supporters via Twitter before taking the stage in Chicago for an ecstatic victory speech. "Whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you," he said. "I have learned from you. And you've made me a better president." He vowed to continue efforts to work with Republicans.
Exit polls showed that the struggling US economy was top in voters' minds as they went to the polls, but also revealed that about half believe that many of the difficulties remain a holdover from the disastrous economic conditions that Obama inherited from his predecessor George W. Bush four years ago. With unemployment still high in the US and the economic recovery fragile, Romney had presented himself as the candidate better equipped to improve the lot of America's middle class.
'Best Is Yet to Come'
But polls also indicate that many voters had come to the conclusion that Romney was the candidate of rich Americans and believed that Obama would do more to help the country's poor. Obama also did better than Romney among Hispanics -- important for his victory in New Mexico and the swing state of Colorado -- and blacks, two voting blocs that Republicans have had a hard time attracting in recent elections. Exit polls also indicated that a majority of women tended to support Obama over his Republican challenger, who had been dogged by ill-considered comments on rape and abortion by two different conservative Republican candidates for the Senate. Both of them -- Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana -- lost.
Despite a victory that came quicker than many pundits had predicted, the next four years promise to be a hard slog for Obama. Republicans managed to defend their majority in the House of Representatives, while Democrats won a small majority in the Senate. Furthermore, with the popular vote split down the middle, it seems unlikely that a wave of bipartisanship is about to wash over Washington D.C.
And that could make Obama's next few weeks extraordinarily challenging. With unemployment at 7.9 percent -- the highest it has been for an incumbent president seeking re-election since Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s -- and all eyes on the $1 trillion budget deficit, Obama must also quickly come to agreement with Republicans to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff" looming in the new year. As part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, US lawmakers agreed that immediate $600 billion in across-the-board spending cuts and tax hikes would automatically go into effect at the beginning of 2013 should the two parties not reach agreement on budget deficit reduction measures -- cuts that economic experts believe would send the US economy into recession. In late 2011, the so-called "Supercommittee" of leading Congressional Democrats and Republicans failed to find a compromise acceptable to both parties.
Still, the mood in Chicago in the wee hours of Wednesday morning was one of celebration. And Obama did his best to stoke the wildly cheering crowd. "Tonight in this election you, the American people, reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long," he said. "We have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back, and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come."