Compromise or More Gridlock?
And so in the end, the public opinion pollsters and the Obama campaign were right. The margins held in the key battleground states and the Obama camp did an amazing job of not only identifying their supporters but making sure they got out to vote. In short they schooled the Republicans on how to run a national re-election campaign, especially when the incumbent is saddled with an iffy economy.
It turns out the last minute Romney campaign visits to Pennsylvania were somewhere on the border of wishful thinking and desperation. The Obama folks had their path to the magic number of 270 votes in the Electoral College and they were going to stick to it. That path involved winning Ohio (done), keeping it close in Florida (done) and winning both Virginia and Colorado (check). By winning the vast majority of the nine battleground states up for grabs this year, the Obama campaign effectively denied Mitt Romney any path to the White House.
Obama’s Demographic Advantage
I think the real story of the 2012 election is how one party adapted to America’s evolving population while the other closed its eyes and hoped for the best. The Democratic coalition of women, minorities and younger voters that propelled Barack Obama into the White House four years ago held firm this year and now represents a growing base for the Democratic Party.
This is of great concern for Republicans. Before he could become the party nominee this year, Mitt Romney had to endure the crucible of the Republican primary elections and especially the numerous Republican primary debates that got wide attention on television. Mr. Romney proudly ran as a “severe conservative” and made sure he wouldn’t get outflanked on the right, particularly on the issue of immigration reform. In order not to offend the right-wing tea party faction of the party, Mr. Romney made it clear he opposed any immediate path for legalizing undocumented immigrants and said that if the law were enforced many of them would deport themselves.
As it turned out, that hard line on immigration in the primaries came back to haunt him in the general election. The Romney campaign was hamstrung trying to win over Hispanics, and in the end nearly 70 percent supported the president, a formula for future disaster for the Republican Party if that trend continues.
Add to this the continuing gender gap for the Republican Party. Women preferred the president by 12 points while men broke for Mr. Romney by a margin of only seven points. Add into the mix controversial (and losing) Republican Senate candidates like Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana and the Republican Party also has a lot of work to do to win over women voters in future elections.
Obama’s 2nd Term Agenda
It begins with making sure the country doesn’t slide off the so-called “fiscal cliff” early next year. Unless Congress and the White House can forge an agreement to cut the budget deficit, nearly $500 trillion worth of tax increases and severe budget cuts will go into effect in 2013 that could slow down or stall the plodding economic recovery.
It’s been apparent for some time that both the president and Republicans in Congress were waiting for the election results to dictate what will happen next. The fact that the status quo remains is going to require some movement on both sides.
The president certainly talked a good game in his victory speech in Chicago early Wednesday. But House Speaker John Boehner was quick to retort that Republicans held their majority in the House and that he believes voters want them to act as a check on big government and reckless spending in Washington.
Both sides are going to have to show some “give” here. Perhaps the president will be unbridled with his re-election victory, no longer having to worry as much about Democratic allies who would bark loudly if they felt he was giving away too much to the Republicans. Likewise, with some of the tea party candidates losing on the Republican side, maybe Republican congressional leaders might have a little more leeway to push a mix of tax hikes and budget cuts that would have been a non-starter during the first Obama term.
A lot will depend on the immediate tone set by both sides and whether they show a mutual willingness to cooperate.
The cast of characters remains the same—the president, Speaker Boehner and Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell. What we don’t know yet is how each of them sees the political landscape in the wake of Tuesday’s results and whether any of them is willing to make a bold gesture that might begin to undo the partisan gridlock that’s been in place in Washington since the early days of the first Obama term.