Republicans were bullish in the weeks leading up to the election, claiming that there would be an enthusiasm gap between fired-up conservatives and disillusioned liberals. Turnout has been lower than 2008, but not in the proportions Republicans expected – African-American enthusiasm seems undiminished, and a larger proportion of Latinos (who themselves made up a larger proportion of the electorate) went for Obama.
As expected, Obama performed significantly better than Romney among ethnic minorities. Nearly half of those who voted for Obama were non-white, a new record. This number will continue to rise until the Republican Party takes a less hard-right stance on immigration.
Perhaps the real winner of this election will be Marco Rubio, who will probably run in 2016 on the promise of making inroads into the Latino vote.
Gender and sexual politics
This election was a victory for advocates of gender equality, with Missouri and Indiana emphatically rejecting anti-choice foot-in-mouth extraordinaires Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock. On top of this a record number women were elected to the Senate, including Tammy Baldwin, who will become the first openly gay Senator in U.S. history.
A clear blow was dealt to the ‘traditional marriage’ brigade, with all four states with gay marriage on the ballot voting for equality. Maine, Maryland and Washington voted to recognize gay marriage, while Minnesota rejected a constitutional amendment to ban it.
Romney in Ohio
In hindsight, Romney was never likely to win Ohio – his opposition to the auto-bailout coupled with an excellent Democratic get-out-the-vote effort seriously diminished his chances – but his team insisted it was not only in play but very competitive. They almost certainly weren’t as confident as they projected.
The big takeaway: this was a vote for government intervention and for government spending. Sixty percent of the Ohio electorate approved of the bailout, and the race would have been much tighter if Obama had let the industry go bankrupt.
Obama coalition or Democrat coalition?
This result was extremely positive for the Democrats. Very few predicted that they would win so many states or Senate races, especially given the state of the economy – the last incumbent president to win with such a high unemployment rate was FDR in 1940. That they can make gains in such an economic climate is a good omen.
The big question for 2016 is: is this a Democratic coalition or an Obama coalition? Was voter turnout so high relative to expectations because voters like the Democrats or because they are enthused with Obama’s personality? Expect a lot to be written about this over the next four years.
There has been only one winner in the battle for the soul of the GOP – the Democrats. The story of this election in Senate terms was the Tea Party vs. the moderates, and has been for two electoral cycles. In 2010 they failed to take the majority despite sweeping the house, and in 2012 they have been thwarted by the nomination of unelectable candidates.
The Tea Party narrative is easy to predict: Mitt Romney wasn’t conservative enough. If he had been a true conservative he would have been swept into office and these ‘unelectables’ would have ridden his coattails. So long as the GOP fails to stand up to this idea, the Senate majority will probably be out of reach.
Puerto Rico votes in favor of U.S. statehood
This has been relegated to a side issue, but it could be one of the most important things to come out of this election. Obama has vowed to respect the will of the Puerto Rican people, and a statehood bill should now be submitted to Congress. If successful the island will become the 51st state, influencing the balance of power in congress (probably in favor of the Democrats).