Published: November 6, 2012 762 Comments
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.
Divided U.S. Gives Obama More Time (November 7, 2012)