Obama Wins, but Has Anything Changed?

Article excerpt

President Obama won reelection, Democrats retained control of the Senate, and Republicans retained control of the House Tuesday night, in a presidential election that, while close, seemed to go the presidents way from the beginning of the evening and was called far earlier than many people expected.

In some ways, the status quo was the big winner.

But it was a far narrower victory for Mr. Obama than it was four years ago, with states like Indiana and North Carolina going Republican this time around, and nail-bitingly close votes in Virginia, Ohio, and Florida as votes came in Tuesday night.

In the end, Ohio was the first of the major swing states to be called by the media for the president, seemingly assuring him of a second term. Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Iowa also helped assure his victory, and Colorado, Nevada, and Virginia soon followed.

If the president prevails in Florida, which seemed likely late Tuesday evening, the final electoral tally would come in at 332 for Obama, against Romneys 206.

The popular vote was far closer, and was still coming in from late-voting states in the West, but Obama seemed assured of winning.

A lot of it comes down to the economy, says Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College in California. If the economy were stronger the president would be doing better, if it were weaker Mitt Romney might [have won]. But it was just good enough to push the president over the finish line.

Obamas victory had been predicted by most pollsters in recent days, but his narrower margin of victory versus 2008 makes it harder for him to claim a strong mandate and puts him in a somewhat weaker position as president.

Still, given the high unemployment rate, weak economy, and relatively low presidential approval ratings, the fact that Democrats retained both the presidency and their control of the Senate was a big coup for their party or, perhaps more accurately, a big loss for Republicans, and possibly a wakeup call for the Republican party as it looks to its future.

All the dynamics in place should have helped Republicans unseat the incumbent, and yet they were unable to do so. While the vote was close, it wasnt as close as some had expected.

Expect a lot of finger-pointing in coming days as Republican insiders decide where to lay blame: whether with Romney, considered a weak, gaffe-prone candidate by many, or with his campaign managers, or even hurricane Sandy.

Particularly disturbing for Republicans may be what exit polls showed about demographics. Women, Hispanics, and young people helped propel Obama to victory. There was about a 10-point gender gap, with exit polls showing 54 percent of women voting for Obama compared with 44 percent of women for Romney.

And Obama has an even stronger edge with Hispanics and young people both key constituencies for any political party looking to the future. Exit polls at one point in the evening showed Hispanics going for Obama 69 percent to 30 percent. …