By Chris Cillizza
The Washington Post
President Barack Obama won a second sweeping national victory Tuesday, far exceeding the electoral vote expectations that many had projected for him and proving that the coalition that he built in 2008 (young people, African-Americans, Hispanics) is durable and sustaining.
While his impressive victory makes Obama the big winner of the night (and, consequently, Mitt Romney the big loser), there were plenty of other bests — and worsts — from election night.
Women: Women comprised 53 percent of the total national vote — as they did in 2008 — and went for Obama by 11 points, a gender gap critical to his victory. Female politicians — particularly on the Democratic side — also had a very good night. The Senate added Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) and Heidi Heitkamp to its ranks while re-electing potential 2016-ers Kirstin Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) In New Hampshire, women ruled the day — electing a new governor (Maggie Hassan) and two new House Members (Carol Shea Porter and Ann Kuster). Add Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R) and Jeanne Shaheen (D) to that mix and you have an all female congressional delegation from the Granite State.
Jim Messina, Joel Benenson and the entire Obama senior strategic team: Messina, the campaign manager, and Benenson, the campaign’s pollster, as well as the rest of the Obama campaign’s top political aides, deserve a massive amount of credit for what they pulled off on Tuesday night. They helped to re-elect a president with an economic headwind the likes of which few politicians would have been unable to run into. They did so with an unwavering belief that the race would be more a choice about which of the two candidates understood average voters’ concerns than a referendum on the president’s policies. They did so with massive infrastructure in swing states and an unswerving commitment of time (and lots and lots and lots) of money in places like Virginia and Florida that few people believed Obama could or would win again in 2012. They did so by recreating the demographic coalition — minorities, women, young voters — that many people said couldn’t be recreated after the 2008 election. Simply a strategic master class from beginning to end.
Young voters: Long the butt of jokes about their lack of participation in the political process, the 18-29 year old set made a major statement in the 2012 campaign. One of the most amazing stats of the 2012 election is that young voters made up a larger percentage of the total electorate (18 percent in 2008, 19 percent in 2012) than they did four years ago. And while Obama’s margin wasn’t as large among that youthful age group as it was four years ago, he still carried 18-29 year olds by 24 points. We are, we are the youth of the nation — indeed.
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee: At the start of the 2012 election, the chances that Democrats would pick up seats in the Senate was roughly equivalent to the chances that Alex Rodriguez would get a clutch playoff hit. So, virtually zero. That Democrats not only held their Senate majority but wound up picking two seats — including holding onto a seat in heavily Republican North Dakota and turning over seats in Massachusetts, Maine and Indiana — is one of the most remarkable developments in a night filled with good news for Democrats. Huge credit goes to Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (Wash.) and DSCC executive director Guy Cecil.
Marco Rubio/Jeb Bush: What Tuesday’s election proved beyond a shadow of a doubt is that Republicans have a Hispanic problem roughly the size of the United States. Obama won Hispanic voters by more than 40 points and in several states — Florida and Nevada to name two — Latinos proved decisive for the Democratic nominee. Both Rubio, Florida’s junior senator, and Bush, the Sunshine State’s former two-term governor, have been saying for quite some time that the GOP must find ways to recast its positions on immigration. (Rubio released a statement early Wednesday morning to that effect.) Watch for both men to emerge as the leaders of an attempt to re-make their party on the issue — and watch for them to get more traction than they did pre-election 2012. And, oh by the way, both men are potential 2016 presidential candidates.
Bill Clinton: Aside from Obama, did anyone have a better 2012 campaign than Bubba? He was the star of the Democratic National Convention and the most valuable surrogate for Obama in swing states in the final week(s) of the campaign. For someone who loves politics in a gut way, Clinton was in his glory during this race. And, is there any doubt he is going to want to stay in the mix? Like, in 2016 as the leading surrogate for his wife’s presidential campaign?
Empathy: One in five voters said that the most important trait in picking their candidates was that he “cares about people like me.” Obama won that group 81 percent to 18 percent over Mitt Romney. That number illustrates how the Obama campaign effectively turned this election from a referendum on the incumbent’s economic policies to a choice as to which of the two men “gets” you.
Political polling by big media organizations: For all of the questions surrounding the party identification in national surveys conducted by the mainstream media, they wound up getting it pretty close to right. The final Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll had a D+6 sample; the national exit poll showed a D+6 edge. So, yeah.
Nate Silver: Nerds rule! Nate has a model, stuck to it and was proven right.
The Boss: Bruce Springsteen got off the sidelines late in the 2012 campaign but went all in for Obama — even touring around on Air Force One in the final days of the campaign. And, he picked a winner.
2016 political junkies: Obama’s victory means that we won’t have an incumbent running in 2016. And, we could very well have the possibility of a totally wide open primary race on both sides if Vice President Joe Biden decides not to run ala Dick Cheney in 2008.
Republican party: There’s almost nothing in the results — either in terms of wins and losses or in terms of demographics — that contains good news for Republicans. This was an across-the-board beating from the presidential level on down and presaged future struggles at the national level for Republicans unless the party can find a way to broaden its coalition beyond white voters. If Republicans continue to lose Hispanics at a 70-30 clip, states like Arizona and even Texas will be swing states in the presidential contest by 2016 or 2020 at the latest. There’s no doubt that this should be a moment of reflection and re-assessment for the Republican party. What is in doubt is how the party’s leaders — most of whom acknowledge privately that things have to change — reconcile the positions of the base on things like immigration, gay rights and abortion to the political reality. While the GOP won’t — and shouldn’t — abandon its principles, to win Republicans have to find a way to put the emphasis on issues (job creation, debt reduction) they can win and not on issues that are now proven stone-cold losers.
Tea party champions: The tea party wing of the GOP cost Republicans near sure-thing Senate seats in Missouri and Indiana by nominating two candidates who were aligned with their views but not with the broader electorates of the states they were running to represent. Add Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin to a list that in 2010 included Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell and Ken Buck and you see five Senate seats that Republicans could easily be holding if they had nominated the more electable candidate. At the House level, tea party hero Joe Walsh (Ill.) lost badly and Rep. Allen West (Fla.) appears headed to defeat although he has yet to concede the contest. Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) eked out a win despite the Republican nature of her suburban Twin Cities seat. The message? Being a tea party hero is great if you are running for the tea party nomination. Of course, that doesn’t exist.
Expanding the map: The final week of the presidential campaign was dominated by talk from Republicans that they had a real chance at victory in places like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Minnesota. None of them were all that close. Romney lost by 5 points in Pennsylvania, 8 points in Minnesota and 9 points in Michigan.
Foreign policy: Despite all of the media attention that Libya drew in the final month of the campaign, foreign policy was an afterthought — at best — for most voters. Just five percent of people in the national exit poll said foreign policy was their most important issue. Interestingly, Obama won that group by 20+ points.
The Mack family: Florida Rep. Connie Mack IV (R) lost — and lost surprisingly quickly — to Sen. Bill Nelson on Tuesday night. On Wednesday morning, California Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R) conceded defeat in her Palm Springs-area House seat. Tough night in the Mack household.
Kid Rock: Robert James Ritchie couldn’t deliver Michigan for Mitt Romney.
Donald Trump: Please. Just. Stop.
By Chris Cillizza
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