Photo: Youtube/New York Times
Barack Obama’s re-election to another four-year term as the 44th president of the United States was no surprise, at least to Democrats and denizens of liberal news organisations.But for a solid month — both nationally and in the highly contested battleground states — the race was virtually tied.
It didn’t end in a tie, however. Despite the closeness of the national popular vote, Obama and Joe Biden eked out victories over Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in the hotly contested states of New Hampshire, Virginia, Ohio, Iowa, Colorado and (though not yet officially) Florida, giving Democrats a 100-vote cushion in the Electoral College.
In the end, after both sides waged the most expensive campaign in U.S. history, all Romney did was flip two states, Indiana and North Carolina, from Obama’s 2008 column into his own.
It wasn’t nearly enough, but the Republican ticket’s razor-thin losses in those battleground states indicate that this outcome was not foreordained. And as Al Gore and George W. Bush learned in 2000, if you win — or lose — a race this close, there are a hundred pivot points that explain the result.
Santorum also spent a surprising portion of his time debating college students -- and sometimes even high school students -- in support of traditional marriage. This, too, was not an issue that Romney particularly cared about or wanted to be front-and-centre.
The same was true of the president, who was dragged reluctantly into the fray on this issue (by his own vice president, actually). But the way it played out actually helped Obama, as it became clear at the Democrats' nominating convention in Charlotte that the party's more liberal wing was prepared to challenge the status quo on this issue. Obama's grudging embrace of same-sex marriage avoided all that.
With a five-point lead and just a month before Election Day, the president showed up in Denver for his first debate with Romney on Oct. 3 cocky and in command -- right up until he sleepwalked through the 90-minute session.
The public and the punditry were in agreement this time: Romney had cleaned Obama's clock. In hindsight, Obama wasn't really that bad, and Romney wasn't that outstanding. Part of the president's problem was that his summer blitzkrieg had done its job too well. When Americans saw Romney for the first time (and some 70 million watched on TV), he looked and sounded smart, committed, and decent. Suddenly the race was a dead heat again.
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