President Barack Obama won a historic second term on Tuesday, defying predictions that a sluggish economy and an energized Republican party might overwhelm the supporters who propelled him to the presidency four years ago.
The president’s reelection ensures that his first term achievements – especially health care reform – will become woven into the American economy and social safety net over the next four years.
His victory came at an unexpectedly early hour, as Mitt Romney lost a series of states he had hoped to peel away from the president.
From Michigan, where Romney was born, to New Hampshire, where the Republican nominee owns a vacation home, the Obama campaign scored decisive victories. Wisconsin, the home state of the GOP’s vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan, was out of Republican reach well before midnight.
Romney had hoped to steal away the Democratic-leaning battleground of Pennsylvania, making an unusual election day campaign stop in Pittsburgh. But the keystone state was another early call for President Obama.
Shortly after midnight, Gov. Romney called President Obama to concede defeat, and the president thanked him for a hard-fought election. An hour later, after Romney's concession speech, the newly re-elected president spoke to several thousand supporters in Chicago to deliver a victory speech that promised to take the country forward.
"Tonight in this election," he said, " 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 and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come."
On a dismal night for the GOP across the country, Republican senate candidates lost in states that were both blue and red. Scott Brown lost his seat in Massachusetts just two years after his surprise victory threatened to end Democratic control of the senate. His rival Elizabeth Warren was thought to have been too left-of-center to defeat a skilled incumbent.
The GOP defeat in Massachusetts was just one of the Republican Party’s missed opportunities. In Indiana and Missouri, Tea Party-backed candidates stumbled badly as they failed to pick off vulnerable Democratic opponents.
Despite being outspent by outside groups that were funded by super-wealthy and often anonymous donors, President Obama succeeded in setting his own terms for the 2012 election.
The Democratic firewall turned out not to be a state, but a majority of one set of voters: women.
According to exit polls, women handed President Obama and Democrats in general a wide margin of victory. They also voted in large numbers, outweighing Romney’s advantage among men.
President Obama won a 12-point margin of victory among women, who represented 54 per cent of the electorate. He won unmarried women by 38 points, suggesting that the debate over reproductive rights was a critical factor in shoring up support and turnout. A clear majority – 59 per cent – said abortion should be legal in most or all cases.
The Republican base of older, white men proved to be too small for the GOP nominee to build a winning margin over the president. In a country
The president’s overall victory defied the usual measures of economic performance, which was clearly the most important issue in the 2012 election.
Romney bested Obama by one point on the question of who could better handle the economy, and more than three-fourths of voters said the economy was either “not so good” or “poor”.
But the president scored far better than his rival on the priority of his policies: 44 per cent said Obama’s policies favored the middle class, while 54 per cent said Romney favored the rich. Also, by a margin of 13 points, voters said they blamed President Bush more than President Obama for the country's current economic problems.
In the final days of the campaign, Republicans began to blame their impending defeat on President Obama’s response to Hurricane Sandy, and his close embrace with Republican governor Chris Christie. While 64 per cent of voters said the president’s response was a factor in their vote, 54 per cent said it was not important in their final voting decision.
The president has a clear mandate to move ahead with his plan to raise taxes on the wealthy. More than half of voters said taxes should go up for either all income earners, or for those making more than $250,000 a year.
He has even broader support to push ahead with immigration reform. Almost two thirds said that illegal immigrants working in the US should be offered a chance to apply for legal status. Support from Latino voters was crucial to the president's victory.