It wasn't a long night after all. Word about Ohio came a little after 11 p.m. President Obama had won his inside straight in the Electoral College. The Rust Belt and the upper Midwest had dropped into place, and next all he needed was to edge past Mitt Romney in the popular vote. Obama managed that around midnight, and now the long noise of the past 18 months is over. Pretty much. Next come postmortems and recrimination.
Obama won with unemployment at 7.9 percent. Two more tenths of a percentage and he would have been in FDR territory, a president who got reelected with a jobless rate over 8 percent. What he managed last night is still remarkable. Obama had started his four years by saying he would bring back economic good times or fail to win another term. He proved himself wrong. During his administration the economy has progressed from catastrophic to bad to feeble. That's better than going in the other direction, but a good economy is still a ways off. For a lot of people that means misery is present in their lives. Yet half the country voted to keep the president.
I like to think that some significant portion of the Obama bloc was made up of people who simply remembered what had gone before. The Romney campaign was counting on a brute reflex: The blue button didn't work, so press the red button. But a certain number of the voters being aimed at could operate by thought instead of reflex. Like mature adults with functioning brains, they took into consideration what happened the last time they pushed the red button. Or so my theory goes. For support, I point to exit polls that find most voters think the economy is the fault of George W. Bush. Those voters have got their heads screwed on right.
Another point. Mitt Romney is a no-class jerk, a trait he showcased during the campaign's final week. That “relief rally” where he bought a pile of goods from Wal-Mart and then pretended voters were bringing them—how cheesy can you get? And the ad about the jeeps being made in China. Actually the jeeps were for the Chinese market, and meanwhile jobs were being added in the United States to build more jeeps here. Romney figured that voters in Ohio would be terrified about losing their jobs. He didn't figure that the manufacturer and the unions would have an interest in getting out the truth, or that the local press would have an audience eager to get the lowdown on the little matter of their livelihoods. He thought people would be too scared and angry to think twice, but they were way ahead of him.
There's a term for doing something so small and mean that it's self-defeating. It's called being a cheap little schmuck. Of all the candidate's many qualities, schmuckiness stood out the most.
Other factors. The electorate is no longer as white-heavy as it's always been. Many non-whites stuck with the President to prove a point. Others listened to the GOP's immigration rhetoric and decided there was nothing for them with those people. (Of course, there were many others who simply favored the President's policies and recognized his ability as an administrator. But racial and ethnic politics have always played a part in America's elections, for better or worse—this time for better.)
Obama has spent years building a campaign machine, one that uses statistical data more skillfully and carefully than any other. In 2011, Obama loaned out his machine to a mayoral candidate in North Carolina. The candidate won where other Democrats had lost. Obama's people pointed to this as a sign that they could mobilize the voters they needed, and they were right.
Obama has governed well. He took the risk of bailing out the car companies and ordering a hit on Osama bin Laden. Oddly enough, at election time we discovered that autoworkers in Michigan and Ohio wanted Obama to stay in office, and that the electorate wouldn't buy the idea that he was some radical feeb.
The Republicans came up with good reasons for women to vote against them. The party was really quite resourceful about this. The ultrasound thing—imagine thinking up a bill that leaves everyone of childbearing age with the possibility that one day her government might shove an instrument up her orifice and against her will.
Finally, there was last week's superstorm. Obama stepped up and did his job, and the whole country saw him doing it. Competence and dedication in the face of a natural disaster should be minimum requirements for a president. But experience has taught us that's not the case.
Drama? No. Romney haters perked up when the networks called Ohio and Romney headquarters stayed silent. Would he hold out? Possibly he might stage an embarrassing scene, as when he sniped at embassy staff trapped by a mob and then insisted he was standing up for freedom. He's a peevish man who haggles over what's coming to him, and he built his business career by absorbing data. Maybe he saw something in the numbers that convinced him everybody else was wrong and he still had a shot. Or maybe he was just waiting to see how the popular vote turned out. But after 90 minutes or so he made it to the hall and told his supporters the news: game over.
He did it briefly and without stammering, blinking or being a pissy jerk, and then he waved with his family and running mate and left. Good.
I have to take issue with several of the claims you make in this piece. First of all, you can call Mitt Romney a lot of things (and you certainly do), but a "no-class jerk" is not something anyone who knows the man or has spent any time around him have ever said. Find me an example of someone who knows Romney and would use similar language to describe him. While you're fruitlessly searching, I can give you countless examples of what a fundamentally decent and generous person he is. He lost the election; no need to dance on his grave. And if you want to go tit-for-tat, let's talk about ads that are "small and mean". How about the ad that ran in Ohio last summer that implied Romney was responsible for a woman's death from cancer? How about the President of the United States resorting to pathetic semantic tricks like "Romnesia" in the final weeks of his campaign? That's "small and mean", and it's what you do when you can't run on your own record. If indeed "Obama has governed well", then why did he never even mention the two seminal "achievements" of his first term: the pork-laden "stimulus" and the unpopular Obamacare? No, Mr. May, Obama won this election in spite of himself and in spite of his dismal record over the last four years. He won because -- as you RIGHTLY point out -- his campaign and those leading it built the most sophisticated and effective get-out-the-vote machine in the history of modern politics. So credit Axelord, Messina and Plouffe, but don't tell me the same president and candidate who made countless errors when separated from the rhetorical pacifier that is his Teleprompter (e.g. his "you didn't build that" unforced error; his extraordinarily inept debate performance; his "voting is the best revenge" gaffe) won this because of the way he's governed and the superior candidate he was. Neither is true. He neither promoted his record nor offered any plans for a second term, but because of his superior campaign team and organization, he won against all odds. And last but not least, as someone sitting in NYC with friends and colleagues still without power -- to say nothing of those who lost their lives or had loved ones or friends lose their lives -- don't tell me about how he "stepped up and did his job" in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy unless you think the job of the president is as simple and menial as smiling for the cameras and making cursory sympathetic remarks. In reality, the response to a natural disaster falls primarily on the shoulders of the state and local governments affected. In this sense, Obama rode the coattails provided by the competent response of Chris Christie. If the national media hadn't been so invested in making sure Obama was reelected, perhaps more would have seen the death and devastation on Staten Island and in the Rockaways -- scenes that eerily resembled New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Obama now faces remarkable challenges -- some more difficult than those he faced when he first took office in January of 2009. Unfortunately for him, this time he is his own predecessor and will have no one to blame but himself if the county continues to struggle. I hope for our sake he is able to turn things around, and if he does, I'll be the first to give him credit for it.
Great. I cite the Jeep ad and the best you can do is "Romnesia." But it's nice to know that all the right-wing political cliches of 2012 have been gathered in one place. I promise to come by and dust them now and then. // If you don't like my assessment of how Obama handled Sandy, you can argue with Chris Christie. // Everyone who knows Mitt Romney is rich and/or on his payroll. Maybe he doesn't lie to them. But in his view the rest of us are suckers and that is how he treats us. // The only problem with the cancer ad was that it couldn't go into the Romney and Bain looted that steel mill.// Finally, I would never dance on Romney's grave because I never dance where there's piss.
Actually, you cited the Jeep ad and I cited the ad claiming Romney caused a woman’s death from cancer. That was the “mean” part. (“Romnesia was the “small” part.) And I have no argument with Chris Christie. I commended his “competent response”. My issue was with your lionization of Obama’s “handling” of Sandy when, in reality, the president can do very little in these situations. It seems, however, that to you, two hours of photo ops and sympathetic words from Obama are somehow a sign of his “stepping up” and exhibiting “competence and dedication”. If that’s the case, then the bar has been set almost laughably low for him and for future (Democratic) presidents. Returning to Romney’s character, I’d argue you’re the one dabbling in clichés. I don’t think David Oparowski or Reed and Rob Nixon were “rich and/or on [Romney’s] payroll”, do you? Or were they suckers? The reality is that President Obama – both during his first term and especially over the last few months of the campaign – divided the country with populist, fear-mongering scare tactics. He divided us by race, by gender, by sexual orientation, by socioeconomic status, etc.. And he did this just to cobble together 50.1% of the electorate he needed to win – a group united not so much in their respect and admiration for Obama, but in their shared status as victims of the supposed oppression and inequality that would befall them were Obama to lose. I can think of nothing more small and mean than that. So it was rich to hear the president in his victory speech claim that “we are an American family and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people.” Who’s the liar now?
No candidate is obliged to cover up for the opposition. The cancer ad was truthful and relevant. Too bad it didn't air -- unlike the Jeep ad, which, as noted, was a complete lie that toyed with people's fears for their livelihoods. // A mean campaign? No. There's nothing mean about pointing out the consequences for other people of Romney's greed. Or in pointing out that the GOP wants to take away citizens' reproductive rights, or in pointing out that it's willing to gut necessary govt services so rich people can pay lower taxes. And if you think that saying gays should have equal rights is the same as dividing us by sexual orientation, then you need a dictionary. // Christie said that Obama did a lot more than take part in a photo op. You may not like that, but it's true. // As for the testimonials at the Tampa convention, you're right and fair enough. But I judge a public figure by his public behavior. And by that standard Mitt Romney is a cheap little schmuck and, since you ask, a liar.
I voted for Obama twice and am glad I did. But I don't believe for a minute if Romney had won, the GOP would've taken away my reproductive rights. It's GOP boilerplate. Did Bush? Did Reagan? Obama's a schmuck too, if you want to play the politician game. Glad he won, but I'd like to see how you react when he cozies up to Wall Street (for the 14th time), in dealing with continuing financial crisis.
You're a bit lost, AppleHead. I didn't say Romney would take away reproductive rights. I said the GOP wanted to and that there was nothing wrong about pointing this out. And by your own reckoning Obama has already "cozied up to Wall Street," so why would I be surprised if he did it again? Of course, what constitutes cozying up can depend on the beholder. In this case Wall Street doesn't seem to think much of your interpretation.