Obama scored a decisive victory with a mandate in the presidential election. At least, that is the way many people, particularly the Democrats describe what happened on Tuesday night as they make rounds on various TV shows. Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House, acknowledged Barack Obama’s resounding triumph when he said succinctly on NBC’s “Today Show” on Monday, “The president [Barack Obama] won an extraordinary victory and the fact is we owe him the respect of trying to understand what they did and how they did it.”
Well, with 332 electoral votes and over 50% of the popular votes, President Barack Obama was reelected on Tuesday, November 6, 2012 after a grueling campaign marked with an unparallel intensity on both sides. Obama’s win was an Electoral College landslide against all odds, and in a campaign that kept supporters on the edge wondering what the outcome would be.
A presidential campaign filled with vitriolic and veiled racially-tinged statements aimed at stoking fears and anger among members of a targeted group, will go down in history as one of the most negative election circle in the United States. For Obama to win in such a poisoned political environment coupled with other factors was a tall order. Winning the presidential election against the headwind of stagnant economy, high unemployment rate, and big money groups whose primary aim was to defeat Barack Obama, caused a tremendous adulation within the Democrat Party.
Well, virtually tied in the national polls, with a slight edge to Barack Obama, and with a lackluster performance in the first presidential debate on October 3, 2012, President Barack Obama had to come out swinging in the second crucial debate on October 16, 2012 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.
The President won the second debate. He also won the third debate about a week later to fend off what was heralded as the Romney momentum. Nevertheless, running neck-and-neck, the stakes for success were high for both President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney going into the third and final presidential debate to gain the confidence of a small swath of undecided and independent voters whose votes were crucial to clinch victory.
Determined not repeat the mistakes of the first debate, President Obama intensified the fireworks during the third and final debate by drawing sharp contrasts between the two on foreign policy-related issues while Mitt Romney played it safe by agreeing with Obama on most of the issues, and to appeal to women voters. As a result, most people saw President Obama as the winner of the debate.
Succor also came when Obama received the much-awaited good news on October 5, 2012, which was the unemployment rate dropping from 8.1 to 7.8-the first time the unemployment rate has reached that low since Obama took office in January, 2009. The good news offered the Obama campaign the opportunity to stem the unsavory tide of narrative arising from his bad performance at the first debate.
Most importantly, Obama won for several reasons. Needless to say that Obama ran a conspicuously thematically superior campaign throughout the cycle; he was a better candidate that needed less packaging than Mitt Romney. A point Republican Grover Norquist validated on CBS’s “This Morning” when he said, “The president [Barack Obama] was elected on the basis that he was not Romney and that Romney was a poopy-head and you should vote against Romney.”
Thus, Obama ran a smart campaign replete with issues that resonated among women, middleclass and the majority of the electorate. With a changing demographics, Obama built a coalition that reflected America-a coalition that included white and non-white. Significant number of minority voters voted for Obama because they could relate to Barack Obama more than to Mitt Romney.
Furthermore, the Obama Campaign was able to define Mitt Romney in negative terms before Romney had the opportunity to define himself. That was a strategic error on the part of the Romney Campaign. Bain Capital became synonym to vain. Gov. Romney’s business experience in Bain Capital, which would have been an enormous asset as the unemployment rate was stubbornly high, became a liability for Romney.
Painfully too, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt”, an Op-ed Mitt Romney penned in the New York Times on November 18, 2008 in opposition to auto bailout, haunted him in Ohio, a state that depended on auto-related jobs. In his article, Gov. Romney said, “IF General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye.
It won’t go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed.” Mitt Romney never overcame the damage his opposition to the auto bailout caused him in Ohio. The Obama Campaign exploited the opening wisely to its political benefit. Even at that, some people were still apprehensive of Obama’s victory considering the likelihood of the reemergence of Bradley-Effect and the avalanche money heaped by some billionaires to defeat Obama at any cost. However, no amount of money could save a flawed candidate with a message that never gained traction with the majority of the electorate.
It was like pouring a bag of salt in the ocean. Again, Obama’s message was gaining traction. Obama litigated ending the Bush-era tax cuts on the wealthy during the campaign. At the same time Mitt Romney advocated for retaining the tax cuts and also giving additional 20% tax cuts on everyone, including the wealthy.
On Election Day, the majority of voters supported Barack Obama’s argument on ending the Bush-era tax cuts on the wealthy. Obama argued that he would want a balanced approach to reducing the national deficit; he argued that the wealthy paying a little bit more in taxes with spending cuts will be fair in an effort to bring down the deficit.
He vowed to resist any attempt to reduce the deficit at the backs of the middleclass, students, the elderly, and the poor. Additionally, the Romney team underestimated the turnout machine of the Obama Campaign to its peril. The Romney campaign thought that the electorate would be similar to 2008 and or 2010. The campaign never expected that many minority groups will have an increase in their share of the electorate, which significantly benefited President Barack Obama.
Republicans are still prognosticating and pointing fingers about their shrill defeat last Tuesday, particularly blaming the mechanics and their message delivery. The salvos of excuses seem to obscure the disconnectedness of their message in relation to the composition of the electorate. In fact, focusing on the mechanics of the campaign while overlooking their policies in relation to the changing demographics of the population, may not be a wise thing to do at this time.
There have been calls for the party to begin to reject the extremism-the extreme wing of the party. Republicans have to realize that the changing demographics places onus on them to start their self-reflection by focusing first on where the electorate is and not where the population was-when White votes were sufficiently enough to win in a general election.
The rapidly increasing minority population that is changing the face of the US electorate has made the strategy of winning the White House based on heavy reliance on White votes archaic. You may follow me on twitter.com/achosr.