All throughout the race, most polls predicted this outcome. Many doubted their accuracy, questioning their methodology, but in the end they were borne out and Obama was elected to lead the nation for another four years. The pollsters’ methodology of using 2008 as the metric was borne out by the facts.
Exit polls indicated that a majority of voters said that the economy was their main concern, something that would have indicated a victory for Romney, but the problem for Romney was that an even greater percentage blamed former President George W. Bush for the current economic problems. People saw the economy as recovering, despite all the evidence Romney tried to muster to disprove that notion. Campaigning in Ohio on Election Day, Romney predicted that, “If it comes down to economics and jobs, this is an election I should win.” It did and he didn’t.
Over and over, Obama said that during his term the nation has begun to recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression. While he conceded that progress has been slow, he accused Romney of offering recycled Republican policies that have helped the wealthy and harmed the middle class in the past and would do so again.
Romney countered that a second Obama term could mean a repeat recession in a country where economic growth has been weak and unemployment is worse now than when the president was inaugurated. A wealthy former businessman, he claimed the knowledge and the skills to put in place policies that would make the economy healthy again. But what he thought would be his advantage, came back to hurt him. Obama blasted him for months as an out-of-touch corporate raiding vulture capitalist and the charge stick. Obama and his team ended up defining their opponent. Romney committed the fatal error of waiting way too long to respond to the negative narrative and by then it was too little too late.
Romney said no one’s taxes should go up in uncertain economic times. In addition, he proposed a 20 percent cut across the board in income tax rates but said he would end or curtail a variety of tax breaks to make sure federal deficits didn’t rise.
The differences over taxes, the economy, Medicare, and more were expressed in intensely negative advertising.
Obama said that he would keep in place the Bush tax cuts set to expire on December 31 for individuals making less than $200,000 and couples earning less than $250,000. Romney maintained that it is counter-productive to raise anyone’s taxes when the economy is functioning poorly. Therefore, he said, he would institute a 20-percent cut to everyone’s income tax rates, regardless of income level.
There were many other differences in the bitterly fought race. Ultimately, Romney was unable to convince enough voters that he would be a better steward of the economy and the nation. Obama will have the next four years to set forth his agenda for the future. Though he won, he will not be able to claim a mandate, either by the size of the victory or by the arguments he espoused throughout the campaign. As the Republican Congress was re-elected, if Obama governs the second term the way he did in his first, gridlock is very likely to remain entrenched in Washington. The Republicans are highly unlikely to compromise if Obama doesn’t move to the Center.
Years from now, the 2012 election will be studied. The election offered American voters a very clear ideological choice between Barack Obama, the most liberal president since Jimmy Carter, and Mitt Romney, a moderate-conservative former Republican governor of Massachusetts, with extensive business experience. For the next few years Republicans will be debating why they lost and what should have been done to win. The Romney campaign obviously failed, but so did the campaign for the Senate.
Obama and Romney clashed on the fundamental role of the federal government. Republicans alleged that Obama wants to turn it into a European-style “nanny state” providing a broad range of entitlement and welfare programs, and imposing all kinds of regulations and requirements on individuals and businesses “for their own good.”
Romney saw the job of government as maximizing personal freedom and opportunity; to allow people to become more independent and make their own choices.
Obama believes that government knows best how to invest the people’s money and therefore supports high taxes to pay for the entitlements and welfare programs he wants to put in place. Obama is not concerned about the long-term effects of the chronic budget deficits being run up by the government and opposes any effort to slash funding to balance the budget for any of his programs.
Obama believes that the wealthy should be required to pay the lion’s share of the additional cost of his government program out of “fairness.” Obama’s class warfare rhetoric has made it clear that he sees the wealthy as the enemy of the American middle class and the common laborer. He supports higher taxes on the wealthy, combined with increased welfare payments, as a form of income redistribution, using the government to take from the rich and give to the poor.
Romney posited that people should be allowed to keep more of their own money and spend it as they see fit, instead of giving it to the government in the form of higher taxes. Romney believes that the wealthy invest their money more productively than the government does, using it to create more jobs, profits and prosperity. The added tax revenue generated by this prosperity is the best away fund the government and reduce deficits.
Obama and Romney differed as well on a number of important specific issues. First and foremost, Romney pledged to repeal Obama’s most important legislative achievement, the Obamacare program, which radically changes the US health care system, and puts it under the control of the federal government.
Romney believes in effective controls on illegal immigration. He opposes efforts to reward illegal immigrants already here with amnesty. Obama is using the powers of his office to bypass Congress by offering a temporary amnesty, included work permits, to up to 1.7 million illegals who came to the US as children. He also supports a pathway to citizenship for those who came here illegally.
ECONOMY THE MAIN ISSUE
However, the dominant campaign issue in this election was the nation’s troubled economy. The unemployment rate remained stubbornly high, standing at 7.9% on the eve of the election. That was down from 10% at the bottom of the recession, but still about 3 points above pre-recession levels. That does not include millions of part time workers who cannot find a full time job, as well as those who gave up looking for work and dropped out of the job market. The so-called U6 unemployment rate published by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, puts the true unemployment rate at 14.6%, representing 23 million workers. Unfortunately, the economy’s sluggish 2% rate of growth is barely enough to absorb the number of new workers entering the job market.
The first major piece of legislation which Obama passed was an $800 billion stimulus package which was intended to prevent the feared collapse of the American economy and lay the foundation for renewed growth. Democrats claim that the stimulus was a success, reversing the momentum of the steep economic decline with a huge cash injection for the states to save hundreds of thousands of jobs held by members of public employee unions and boosting welfare recipients. However, the stimulus package failed to give the US economy enough of a boost to trigger a strong recovery. Instead, the rate of growth and job creation has remained well below the historic average for a US economy in recovery.
Another early Obama initiative was the taxpayer bailout of General Motors and Chrysler. The main beneficiary was the United Auto Workers union, which emerged with the lion’s share of the shares of the reorganized companies. Other GM and Chrysler stakeholders lost their investments.
Another issue in the election was Obama’s partisan governing style. In fashioning his stimulus package, Obama did not make a serious effort to reach out to the Republican opposition. Instead, he picked off a few moderate Republicans, and passed the stimulus with only 3 GOP votes in the Senate and none in the House. Once he persuaded Pennsylvania Republican Arlen Specter to switch parties in April, 2009 giving Democrats a veto-proof 60 vote majority in the Senate, Obama stopped making any effort to reach bipartisan compromises with Republicans.
SWITCHING FROM THE ECONOMY TO OBAMACARE
Even though it was clear that the stimulus package left the goal of restoring economic growth unrealized, Obama switched his focus to his most important legislative goal, Obamacare. The far-reaching legislation put the entire US health care system, representing one-sixth of the American economy, under the control of a massive new federal bureaucracy.
Obamacare featured popular provisions requiring health insurance companies to stop rejecting applicants with pre-existing conditions and expanded the coverage of children under their parents’ policies.
Obamacare also sets up a system under which the government would establish minimum standards for the type of care covered by all health insurance policies.
Another goal of Obamacare is to extend health coverage to millions of currently uninsured Americans. To pay for this expansion, Obamacare imposes a mandate on every individual to buy health care insurance, removes $716 billion from the Medicare budget over the next decade, and imposes a myriad of new taxes.
The White House made deals with the unions, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and medical associations to protect their interests in return for their support for the emerging Obamacare bill. Obama then pushed the bill through Congress without a single Republican vote.
Obamacare generated opposition on a variety of levels. Many of its opponents believe that it will undermine the quality of care delivered by the entire American health care system. Many seniors fear that the cuts it makes in payments to Medicare providers will result in fewer doctors accepting new Medicare patients, reducing their access to the services they need. Yet others object to the government dictating their health care choices.
However, for liberals, passage of Obamacare into law was the realization of a goal sought by Democrat presidents since Lyndon Johnson passed Medicare.
THE BIRTH OF THE TEA PARTY MOVEMENT
Growing grass roots opposition to the stimulus package, the bailouts and Obamacare sparked the rapid growth of the Tea Party movement.
The partisan dispute over these issues became bitter, creating a sharp divide between Obama’s supporters and his opponents. It set the tone for Washington politics for the rest of Obama’s first term.
There was also an ongoing dispute between the two sides over tax and spending policy in the context of efforts to reduce the budget deficit. Obama and the Democrats insisted that significant government spending cuts must be accompanied with increased taxes on those with higher incomes, while Republicans and conservatives insisted that such tax increases are damaging to the economy.
The rise of the Tea Party activists reinvigorated the Republican Party. It gave them fresh determination to block the rest of Obama’s liberal agenda and to try to defeat his bid for reelection.
OBAMA’S LIBERAL AGENDA
Obama continued to push for expansion of spending on social welfare benefits, education, entitlements and “green energy.” He also supported expansion of government regulation of business, financial institutions and carbon emissions to protect consumers and the environment and prevent global warming.
His conservative opponents argue that Obama’s “green energy” proposals would further raise the cost of gasoline and that new regulations and tax increases would slow business growth and new job creation.
The anger of the Tea Party movement at Obama’s policies expanded the traditional Republican voter base and led to a massive defeat for Democrat candidates on the state and federal levels in the 2010 midterm election.
The huge Republican victory prompted Obama to reach a one-time deal on a two year extension of all the Bush era tax cuts and a temporary reduction in the payroll withholding tax to stimulate the economy.
Democrats bitterly criticized Obama for making that compromise, arguing that he would never win support from congressional Republicans. At that point, the tone of Obama’s rhetoric changed, adopting the more aggressive stance he has maintained against his Republican opponents throughout his re-election campaign.
CLASS WARFARE RHETORIC
He sought to portray himself as the advocate for the American middle class and the economically deprived, fighting for economic “fairness” by requiring the wealthy to pay a greater share of the cost of government. He also characterized the Republicans as “the enemies” of the middle class, dedicated to preserving the unfair advantages of the wealthy by protecting their special tax breaks at the expense of higher taxes paid by the middle class.
On the other side, congressional Republicans, fiscal conservatives and Tea Party activists condemned Obama’s efforts to expand the reach of the federal government and its spending on entitlement programs. They argued that the deficit spending his programs require would ultimately bankrupt the US economy.
Any hope of either side agreeing to a compromise on spending and tax measures completely disappeared.
CRISIS OVER THE DEBT CEILING
The political standoff situation between the two sides came to a head in the summer of 2011, as the federal spending approached the legal debt limit. Unless Congress passed a measure to raise the debt ceiling, the government could not legally continue to incur more debt to finance its spending. Republicans used their control of the House of Representatives to demand that any increase in the debt limit be accompanied by an equal reduction in future deficits by cutting federal spending.
Once again, Obama insisted that any spending cuts in entitlement and welfare programs be accompanied by an increase in tax rates on those with higher incomes out of a sense of “fairness.”
Republicans said that Obama’s “tax the rich” proposal was ideologically motivated, because it would not raise enough new tax revenue to make much of a dent in the deficit. It would slow economic growth and reduce the incentive for entrepreneurs to create new private sector jobs. They also said that if Obama was really interested in deficit reduction, he would have supported the bipartisan plan proposed by the Simpson-Bowles commission which he formed to study the deficit problem.
GRAND BARGAIN REJECTED
The best remaining hope for a compromise was the “grand bargain” that emerged from Obama’s secret negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner. It would have served as a blueprint for a permanent solution to the federal deficit problem. Boehner entered into the talks even though he knew that House freshman elected with Tea Party support would oppose the compromise he reached with the president which traded a small tax increase for larger spending reductions. But Obama then put Boehner in an impossible position by making a last minute demand for a larger tax increase than Boehner could possibly deliver.
With the “grand bargain” deal dead, the White House decided to put off the debt ceiling crisis by making a deal with Republicans to “kick the can down the road.” It raised the debt ceiling and set a 5-month deadline for reaching a bipartisan deficit reduction deal, or face automatic spending cuts, known as sequesters, that would cripple many critical national defense and domestic spending programs.
ORIGINS OF THE FISCAL CLIFF
Ultimately, Congressional Republicans refused to accept any such agreement on Obama’s terms, which included a tax increase on the wealthy. This triggered the sequestration of funds which is due to go into effect at the end of this year. The extension of the Bush era tax cuts will also expire at the end of the year, along with the payroll withholding reductions. In addition, some of the Obamacare tax increases will kick in at the start of 2013. Taken together, they add up to a $600 drag on the US economy. This is the dreaded “fiscal cliff” which could throw the US economy back into recession unless Congress passes a measure to stop it before the end of this year.
Ultimately it is the president’s responsibility to make sure that the federal government continues to function. But Obama made a conscious decision to call the Republican bluff by creating the conditions which have led to the fiscal cliff.
OBAMA SEEKS TO AVOID A REFERENDUM
Normally, voters would have held an incumbent president seeking reelection accountable for the slow economic growth and the political gridlock in Washington. One could have expected the election to be a referendum on Obama’s performance, dooming his chances for a second term.
To avoid this, Obama’s Democrat supporters came up with a two-prong strategy. They argued that the failure of the economy to recover was not his fault. Then they sought to disqualify Mitt Romney as an acceptable president.
They blamed the recession and the financial crisis on Bush, and claimed that no president could clean up the mess which Bush created in just four years in office.
This argument was made most persuasively by former President Bill Clinton. Speaking at the Democrat National Convention is September, Clinton praised Obama’s handling of the economic situation he inherited and said that even he could not have done any better in reviving the economy.
Obama and the Democrats claimed that Obama’s economic policies were slowly working. They warned voters that electing Romney would result in repeating the same economic policy mistakes which led to the financial crisis and the recession in the first place.
To divert voter attention away from Obama’s failures, the White House and the Democrats made a concerted effort to demonize Romney even before he wrapped up the GOP presidential nomination after a tough primary fight.
Romney began as the frontrunner after running a good, but losing race for the GOP nomination in 2008. Senator John McCain defeated Romney four years ago because many Republicans did not believe that Romney was a dedicated conservative. He had to overcome his record as a one term (2003-2007) Republican governor of the liberal state of Massachusetts, when he espoused moderate to liberal stands on a range of key social issues.
ROMNEY’S CONSERVATIVE CREDENTIALS
Romney knew when he decided to run again in 2012 that he would have to prove to Republican voter base that he is committed to conservative values.
From the start of the 2012 primary campaign, Romney emphasized his conservative positions as well as his opposition to Obamacare, which the White House claimed was modeled on a program Romney passed in Massachusetts when he was governor. Throughout the primary campaign, Romney’s conservative credentials were challenged. Michelle Bachmann briefly burst into the headlines in the summer of 2011, winning an Iowa straw poll. Her candidacy was quickly eclipsed by the entry of Texas Governor Rick Perry into the primary race, with the encouragement of conservative party leaders who did not trust Romney. Perry became the instant frontrunner, but his campaign self-destructed when he embarrassed himself in the debates. The next conservative GOP alternative was Herman Cain, who had an attractively simple economic plan and a winning personality, but unfortunately his record could not survive close scrutiny in the media.
Next, Romney was very seriously challenged by former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich, who is the GOP’s most eloquent and brilliant figure. Gingrich had a masterful grasp of domestic, national security and foreign policy issues, and gained supporters due to his outstanding performances in the GOP candidate debates. This led many Republicans to believe that he would make the most effective candidate against Obama. That is why his standing rose in the polls until his arrogance did him in.
Gingrich attacked Romney’s record at Bain Capital, challenging his claim that he was responsible for creating 100,000 new jobs during his tenure with the company. He accused Bain, under Romney’s leadership, of practicing “vulture capitalism,” buying viable businesses, draining their assets to generate profits for himself and Bain’s investors, and eventually throwing their workers out of a job. Gingrich challenged Romney to release his tax returns, and exploited Romney’s refusal to do so to fuel suspicions that there was something in them he wanted to hide. Gingrich scored a decisive victory over Romney in the January 21 South Carolina primary, and became the new GOP frontrunner.
But just when Gingrich was gaining momentum, his reputation was attacked in the mainstream media by unnamed enemies he had made in both political parties over the past 30 years. As the campaign moved on to Florida, Romney swamped Gingrich with a barrage of negative ads attacking his checkered personal and political history. The decisive moment came in a January 26 debate in Jacksonville, in which Romney beat Gingrich at his own game and showed his true mettle as a presidential candidate for the first time.
Gingrich was soundly defeated by Romney in Florida, but refused to give up, continuing to campaign with the financial support of Sheldon Adelson, a wealthy and loyal supporter and an admirer of Gingrich’s strong support for Israel.
By that point, Romney’s only serious remaining challenger was former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who proved his remarkable dedication as a campaigner by winning the Iowa caucuses with virtually no financial support or organization. Santorum had a strong appeal to social conservatives, but lacked the resources to compete with Romney in the remaining primary states. Santorum scored some surprising upsets in the next few contests, but Romney’s superior organization swamped him in 6 out of the 10 states on Super Tuesday. This gave Romney an insurmountable lead in the GOP delegate count, effectively securing the nomination. Republicans were convinced that they could only win with a Conservative candidate, but the Conservatives were unable to withstand the electoral tests and one after another they fell to the eminently qualified Romney who outshined them in enough ways to emerge the winner.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT CANDIDATE
It was the right outcome. Romney was the most electable of the GOP candidates. His proven talent for turning around failing companies was the perfect qualification for leading this country out of recession.
Mitt Romney has led an exemplary personal life. He is a dedicated husband, father and grandfather, and a leader of his church, and he has donated huge amounts of his own money to charity.
Romney has a distinguished presidential bearing that none of the other GOP candidates could match. He is tall, handsome, clean cut and speaks with authority and self assurance.
He learned the lessons from his 2008 defeat, and was a much better candidate four years later. He built an efficient nationwide campaign organization and consistently stuck to his winning political strategy. As the primary campaign unfolded, Romney steadily improved as candidate through hundreds of campaign appearances, scores of town hall meetings and dozens of GOP debates.
OBAMA ATTACKS ROMNEY EARLY
The Obama re-election campaign identified Romney from the outset as Obama’s most formidable potential opponent, and began a concerted effort to discredit him long before he secured the nomination. It carefully monitored the attacks made against Romney by Gingrich and the other GOP presidential candidates, particularly when they condemned his record as the head of Bain Capital and raised questions about his tax returns and personal finances. The Obama campaign cleverly recycled these charges, almost verbatim, in their own attack ads against Romney.
Many of the charges were grossly unfair. They referred to events which took place years after Romney left Bain to run the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympics. The hard luck stories by former employees of companies bought by Bain who then lost their jobs ignored the fact that many of those companies were already failing before Bain tried to turn them around.
No evidence has ever surfaced of wrongdoing in Romney’s financial affairs or his tax returns. His assets have been managed by a blind trust for years.
Nevertheless, the Obama campaign never hesitated to use these accusations against Romney and sought to turn Romney’s record at Bain into a liability. Romney’s personal wealth also made him the perfect target for Obama’s class warfare rhetoric. During the late spring and early summer months, Romney was attacked by an avalanche of negative ads paid for by the Obama campaign, whose financial coffers were still full because it did not have to spend any money on the Democrat primaries. The Romney campaign was unable to respond in kind because it had spent most of its pre-convention campaign funds in winning the bitterly contested GOP primaries.
The largely unanswered onslaught of negative ads, influenced many independent and undecided voters.
Obama was also aided by the fact that the mainstream media allowed the Obama campaign to set the agenda in each daily news cycle by focusing on each new Obama charge against Romney. This obscured the issue of Obama’s failed economic policies and the lack of a new agenda for his second term.
Obama’s critics accused him of running for reelection on nearly a full time basis, while putting the broad range of domestic and foreign policy issues facing this country on hold until after the election. They said that he failed to make any effort to avoid the fiscal cliff, stop the Iranian nuclear threat, block the takeover of Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood, or halt the chaos spreading through the region.
Obama campaigned for re-election based on a limited selection of his first term accomplishments. He claimed the credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden, putting al Qaeda “on the run” and saving more than million jobs with the bailout of the auto industry. He also asked voters to accept on faith his promise that the same policies which failed to revive the economy during his first term would work in the second.
Obama also said that Romney’s proposal to stimulate the economy and generate 12 million new jobs by lowering tax rates while broadening the tax base “doesn’t add up.”
His campaign has warned that a Romney administration would reverse gains made by women in the labor marketplace, and seek to change the balance on the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Obama has sought support from Hispanic voters based upon his support of the “Dream Act,” which would permit undocumented aliens who arrived in the country as minors and met certain other requirements to stay in this country permanently. He also warned Hispanic voters about the more conservative position which Romney took on immigration reform during the GOP primary campaign.
FOREIGN POLICY DIFFERENCES
Obama claims that his foreign policies have restored respect for the US in the international community and its allies. He also boasts about his success in extricating the US from the war in Iraq, and promises to do the same in Afghanistan.
Obama also claims that his more collaborative approach to foreign policy, “leading from behind,” as it did in the conflict in Libya, has restored respect for America in the international community.
Obama’s opponents objected to his criticism of previous US foreign policy actions in statements he made during an “apology tour” abroad shortly after he took office. They also said that Obama’s failure to support the pro-democracy Iranian demonstrators when they took to the streets in May, 2009, missed a crucial opportunity to effect peaceful regime change in Iran from within.
His critics say that Obama has been too eager to publicly pressure Israel into making concessions to the Palestinians. Obama counters that he is dedicated to Israel’s security, and that under his administration, US military support for Israel is stronger than ever before.
ON IRAN AND ISRAEL
Obama’s critics say that he has failed to keep his promise to halt Iran’s drive to acquire nuclear weapons threatening Israel. Supporters respond that the strengthened US and European economic sanctions now in place are working to increase the pressure on Iran to give up their nuclear program. They buttress their argument with the fact that there is still time for the US to intervene with military force if Iran makes an effort to actually build a nuclear weapon.
Romney was more supportive of Israeli Prime Minister Binyomin Netanyahu’s demands that the US announces a clear red line beyond which Iran’s nuclear weapons program would trigger a US military response.
When Romney visited England, Israel and Poland this summer, he demonstrated his support for Israel’s claim to Yerushalayim as its capital, and expressed a pro-Israel position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He also said that as president he would restore America’s active role as the leader of the free world.
Obama fought with Israel’s leader Binyomin Netanyahu and attempted to force them into a deal with the Palestinians. His attempt backfired and he took steps to reingratiate himself with Netanyahu and American Jews.
Throughout the campaign, the mainstream media has consistently portrayed Obama in a more positive light than Romney. It played up an offhand remark Romney made to a private gathering of contributors in which he referred to the fact that under Obama, 47% of Americans receive some kind of federal payment. The Obama campaign claimed that Romney was criticizing the recipients of Social Security and veterans benefits as unworthy, while Romney’s supporters claimed that he was just saying that the growth of government welfare payments under Obama was undermining the American tradition of self-sufficiency.
At the same time, the media dismissed Obama’s admonition to businessmen that “you didn’t build this” and his claim that government was responsible for their success as a one-time gaffe rather than revealing Obama’s hostility to the free enterprise system.
Romney’s campaign remained on the defensive until he picked Minnesota Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate, and incorporated ideas from Ryan’s budget and Medicaid reform proposals into his campaign platform. Ryan quickly proved that he was a serious and responsible choice, and an effective campaigner, but his mastery of the budget and its related issues was rarely brought to bear.
OBAMA’S CONVENTION ADVANTAGE
Because Romney’s image had been badly tarnished by Obama’s attack ads, Republicans used most of the prime time media coverage of their Tampa convention to reintroduce Romney to voters, rather than presenting his alternative agenda for the next four years to voters who were still on the fence. As a result, Romney’s post-convention “bounce” in the polls was very small and short-lived.
One week later, Democrats used their convention to showcase Obama’s accomplishments, convince voters that the problems in the economy were not his fault, and assure them that his economic policies were working. In his convention acceptance speech, Obama did not rise to previous heights and offered few new ideas for his second term.
Obama got a much bigger bounce in the polls from his convention than Romney did, and he maintained his lead through September. Obama seemed to be on the verge of putting the election out of Romney’s reach by putting together a projected Electoral College victory even if he didn’t win any of the battleground states still in play.
Some Republicans seemed to be on the verge of despair. Romney’s last chance to recapture the momentum in the race was to defeat Obama in the presidential debates, which seemed unlikely.
ROMNEY’S CRUCIAL FIRST DEBATE WIN
To almost everyone’s surprise, Romney seized the initiative in the first debate. Obama was passive and poorly prepared.
Romney’s calm demeanor and effective presentation in the October 3rd debate effectively countered the efforts of the Obama campaign to disqualify him with attack ads. When voters saw Romney and Obama standing on the same stage and compared them directly, they found Romney to be the more distinguished of the two, and eminently qualified to lead the country.
For the first time, many voters realized that they had a real choice, and did not have to settle for four more years of Obama’s leadership.
Obama’s supporters were rattled by his performance in the first debate, and insisted that Vice President Biden go on the attack in his debate against Paul Ryan. Ryan did not allow himself to be baited by Biden’s derisive behavior, and, like Romney, presented a calm and informed approach on the issues in the campaign.
In the last two debates, Obama went on the offensive, but the damage was done. Though the media declared Biden and Obama the winners, Romney and Ryan had succeeded in establishing their credentials. Despite that, Obama’s supporters came around and rallied for him.
After the first debate on October 3rd, Obama’s lead in the national opinion polls evaporated, and swung slightly in Romney’s favor. In the last two weeks of the campaign, Romney’s slim lead in the national polls disappeared, but he continued to reduce Obama’s lead in several of the crucial battleground states, endangering Obama’s assumed advantage in the Electoral College.
There were fundamental questions about the accuracy of the national polls, which are based upon their predictions about the profile of those who would actually vote on Election Day. Most mainstream polls were based upon the voter pattern in the 2008 election, which featured an unusually large turnout of younger voters, blacks and Hispanics in support of Obama. The Gallup organization developed a likely voter profile that reflected the greater motivation of those opposed to Obama, and resulted in consistently higher poll numbers for Romney.
The Gallup poll angered the Obama campaign with its findings in the last three weeks of the campaign that the president had lost much of his 2008 advantage among female voters, while Romney continued to hold a lead among white men.
The Democrats responded with an all-out effort to generate support from women voters. They also sought to boost turnout among Hispanic and young voters, while conceding that Romney would carry the white vote by a large margin. They ran a masterful campaign knowing that they could never win anything more than a close election and pulled out all the stops to make that happen.
LAST MINUTE EFFORTS
Both campaigns conducted vigorous early voting efforts in the battleground states, effectively canceling each other out. There was a hiatus during the usually hectic final week of the campaign out of respect for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Obama benefitted from being able to portray his leadership of the federal response to the crisis.
The campaigning in the final days was particularly intense in Ohio, which both sides knew would be crucial to winning the election. In the final days, Romney also sought to “expand the campaign map” to include Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa and Pennsylvania, where Obama held a very small lead until the very end and on the day it counted. Those states were called for Obama early after the polls closed, and at 11:16 P.M. with 77% of the vote counted, the networks projected Ohio for Obama. Democrats all over rejoiced. The Romney camp was slow to accept that outcome and protested that as the count progressed the margin separating the two candidates narrowed. And so, as the Democrats celebrated, the counting continued and as it did state after state fell into Obama’s column and the inevitable set in. Obama, beset with the worst economy since FDR and leading a deeply divided country, has won re-election to the White House. At 12:55 A.M. Romney delivered his address conceding defeat. Obama followed with the victory speech and celebration.
As the numbers were rolling in and contested state after contested state went for Obama, Republicans started with the what ifs? What if Romney had gone after Obama stronger in the last debate? What if he would have gone after him on Libya? What if the Republican Convention had featured a plan and a message? What if Romney and Ryan would have run a campaign touting the Republican plan, and not reducing it to sound bites and an avalanche of negative ads? What if his campaign would have been expanded to cover all the issues confronting the country, and not simply repeat a mantra about jobs? What if he would have spoken more about the Supreme Court and family values? Would that have helped? What if he would have taken on Obama on the foreign issues confronting the world? What if Ryan would have been freed to talk about budget issues and not be reduced to a typical stump speech? What if they would have taken the fight nationally and not only concentrated on nine swing states? Could they have pulled it off? Is the Republican Party, as we know, it finished, or can it come back? Does it have to be more Conservative, or more moderate in order to win back the White House and the Senate? Or did they lose because they weren’t aggressive enough, failed to adapt to the changing population, and develop a much better ground game? Perhaps Romney lost because conservatism was not his natural philosophy and that is why he lost, even though a majority of the people favor small government.
Then again, had Obama lost, the same questions would have been posed about the toxic divide and conquer campaign he ran. The fact remains that no incumbent with his record has ever won re-election. He must be commended for identifying what he had to do and focusing like a laser beam on accomplishing it to win re-election. Now, that he won, he will have to work hard to win back the confidence of those he bashed throughout the campaign and will now lead. He campaigned as the one who led the country back to economic recovery, now he will have to ramp up that recovery and bring back jobs for those he claimed to champion. His victory was thanks to a masterful campaign, now he has to govern in a time of great challenges at home and abroad.
LEV MELOCHIM V’SORIM
Let us recognize that all that transpires is part of a Divine plan. We may not always understand the workings of Hashem, but we must recognize Lev melochim vesorim beyad Hashem. We pray and remain hopeful that better days are ahead.