Battlegroud states snag Obama 303 electoral votes, second term

By Anya Zentmeyer | 11/7/12 8:38pm


Courtesy / (REUTERS/Jason Reed)
U.S. President Barack Obama waves as he arrives at an election campaign rally in Columbus, Ohio, November 5, 2012, on the eve of the U.S. presidential elections.

by Courtesy photo / Grand Valley Lanthorn

President Barack Obama was greeted warmly by his hometown of Chicago Tuesday night after news organizations began declaring his victory over former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race around 11:20 p.m., carrying America’s first black president into his second term.

“Tonight in this election, you, the American people, reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back,” Obama said. “We know in our hearts that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come.”

Predictions of a close race came to fruition, with the New York Times most recent numbers at time of publication totaling Obama at 50.4 percent (60,506,653) of the popular vote while Romney trailed behind with 48.1 percent (57,706,874) of American’s votes. Republican and democrats nationwide watched nervously as electoral votes – most notably in the battleground states – topped out at 303 for Obama, and 206 for Romney, leaving 29 currently undecided. Obama swept Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia and Wisconsin, also taking all 16 of Michigan’s electoral votes – Romney’s birth state – as well as his home state of Massachusetts.

“This is an affirmation for the Obama presidency,” said Roger Moiles, affiliated professor of political science at Grand Valley State University. “It was a hard-fought battle, of course, but it was an affirmation. I think it’s a good thing for the country that we had a clear popular vote winner and electoral vote winner; the fact that Governor Romney could concede within a few hours after the polls had closed, that we had a clear definition on that.”

Whit Kilburn, also from GVSU’s political science department, said Obama’s victory was not a surprising one. However, much like 2008, his victory was much bigger than himself.

“I think it’s also a victory for the kinds of politics we think America should have,” Kilburn said. “While there’s no doubt that the campaign was at times shrill and negative, this is really nothing new in American politics. But the election, the exit polls, and the pre-election polls showed that ideas and demographics still mattered. It was not enough for Romney to campaign as the anti-Obama. He had to put together a compelling plan for how he would govern, but the results show that most Americans did not find it compelling enough.”

Closing the party gap

At 51, Obama faces a still-shuddering economy, record levels of national debt and a polarized congress. Republicans will still have control of the U.S. House of Representatives, with 209 versus 155 democrats and 71 undecided. Democrats still have Obama’s back in the Senate, however, with 52 democrats versus 44 republican seats – something Moiles said might help Obama in the long run, though it may be a “very difficult and painful process.”

“What Obama and democrats want is some tax increase to go along with spending cuts, and that’s what more or less, the Tea Party has resisted,” he said. “With their particular power in the House and the republican majority, I think maybe with some support from some Senate republicans – not all of them, certainly senate republicans will still hold to their principles and positions – but, I do think he may be able to put together a little bit of a coalition that will put some leverage on that House majority.”

Gov. Romney and Obama both expressed strong sentiments of bipartisanship in their concession and acceptance speeches, respectively, Obama reminding the country on more than one occasion “we are all in this together.”

“I think it’s a little idealistic that it’s going to continue that way; it’s a good start, it’s a good direction to go into,” Moiles said. “The President talked about meeting with Mitt Romney and talking about ways to bring things together, there was a suggestion of compromise and cooperation on these sorts of things from Mitt Romney in his concession speech – and I think that opens the door.”

Hitting the ground game running

Moiles said Obama’s ground game played an essential role in his victory over Romney, especially when it came down to getting out the vote with targeted demographics like women, youth ages 18-29 and Latino voters, who with 70 percent of the demographic voting in his favor, gave Obama perhaps his biggest popular vote advantage in the battleground states.

“This was something really defined by the ground game, that’s an advantage they’ve had all along,” Moiles said. “It’s when they really shifted it into gear in the last several weeks of getting those populations.”

60 percent of the youth vote went to Obama, versus 37 percent to Romney; which, at 19 percent of the total electoral, indicates a one-percentage point increase from the 2008 election.
Danielle Leek, associate professor of communications at GVSU, said this election proves that young voters will remain a consistent feature of contemporary American elections.

“A lot of people argued that the ‘shine’ would wear off after the hoopla of social media and a first-time African American president in 2008,” Leek said. “That lot of people was wrong.”
Amanda Hogan, a GVSU senior and journalism major, said she isn’t surprised either by the outcome of the race.

“The media and the polls have painted this election as frighteningly close, but I never thought Mitt Romney had a chance, especially when it came to the youth vote,” Hogan, who assisted Leek on Tuesday night at the WZZM newsroom doing voter data entry. “The Obama campaign did an interesting job of making the campaign more about what Romney can’t do, and why he is wrong for the presidency, than focusing on what Obama has done and will do for the next four years.”

Hogan said she never felt like Romney tried to appeal to younger voters, coming off as a “stiff elitist.”

“I think that the younger generation would have been more accepting of a Republican candidate if the right one had been chosen, especially since, as college students, we know how high the stakes are going to be to find a job in this economy, and we are becoming more conservative with our money,” Hogan said.

The economy, Moiles said, will be Obama’s toughest obstacle in gaining back voter support – especially from the youth demographic – namely college students, who are looking ahead apprehensively toward a still unstable job market.

“If the economy shows progress there – now, that’s going to mean avoiding setbacks, problems with the budget, things that will make investors nervous – but if he can accomplish that, if he can work out these deals, then the President’s approval rating will go up out of that and I think that’ll be tied very closely to the economy,” Moiles said.

Don Zinman, assistant professor of political science, said in his second term, one of Obama will have to convince the younger and more idealistic voters of 2008 that “change does not come quickly and without resistance.”

A changing landscape

Moiles said the tone of politics might also have an effect on public attitude and the President’s approval ratings in his second term.

“The tone of the politics – whether people feel that their government is working for them or if it’s a matter of bickering for political gain – I think that’s something that he came into office with this view of post-partisanship, that we can get past all of that, and I think he made efforts to do that, to an extent,” he said. “But I think they have to find a way to rise above that. They have to accept certain realities on all sides and be able to come to that compromise.”

Kilburn said that this election proves the need for Republicans to do some “serious soul searching” to stay in the game in upcoming elections.

“It can’t continue to win elections if its demographic base is overwhelmingly white, old, and male,” he said. “Demographics matter, because characteristics such as race, gender, ethnicity, and age are all markers of a shared cultural experience and set of values. The country as a whole is becoming rapidly more diverse.”

Though voters cannot control the tone of politics in the White House, they can control it on the ground floor, and Leek said young voters might just be push republican and democrats need to meet in the middle.

“2012 may show that young voters will reshape the “party line” assumption about politics,” she said. “In a number of races, Republicans won Congressional house & senate seats in the same districts where Obama won the presidency. This means more voters are willing to split their ticket, and I believe that a number of those voters are young Americans who are willing to think outside the traditional frames of political parties.”

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