A majority of Americans voted for the status quo, endorsing the president despite the dismal economy that should have done him in. So Barack Obama stays in the White House, Democrats keep control of the Senate and Republicans still control the House.
It was not “the economy, stupid,” the catch phrase of political strategist James Carville that worked in 1992 when Bill Clinton unseated President George H. W. Bush. Instead, the groups that voted overwhelmingly for Obama had other agendas. Latinos, now 10 percent of the electorate, went for Obama over Mitt Romney 71 percent to 27 percent, the Pew Hispanic Center reports. It was the highest for a Democratic candidate since 1996 when Bill Clinton got 72 percent of that vote.
Why? In a word, immigration. It was no contest because Obama scored a knockout with his June executive order blocking deportation of illegal immigrants under age 30 who came here when under 16, essentially implementing the DREAM Act. Romney said he favored “self-deportation” and would cancel Obama’s leniency move.
Would Romney have won if he had chosen as running mate Marco Rubio, the charismatic young U.S. senator from Florida? It would have sent a strong message to Latinos — if the GOP won Rubio would be a heartbeat from the presidency and poised for a run in his own right. Rubio talked about a DREAM Act alternative but dropped it after Obama’s executive order. It’s clear that Republicans must work to bring more Latinos and other minorities into the party tent.
However, other factors were at play in this election. First, it is very, very difficult to unseat an incumbent president, and this election confirms the conventional wisdom. It also holds in local and state elections across the board. It was a big hurdle for Mitt Romney. Second, the Obama campaign succeeded in defining Romney as a Wall Street type concerned about profits, not people. Once again, a vicious smear campaign by Democrats mounted a merciless attack on a good and decent man. He — and America — deserved better. Third, the Democrats got out their voters, even beating the 2008 turnout.
Now the same folks are back in Washington facing the same fiscal cliff that loomed before the election. Harry Reid, the Dem Senate leader, is still talking class warfare, tax the rich. House Speaker John Boehner is saying Republicans are willing to put tax reform on the table, proposing to close special-interest loopholes, for one thing. The overriding question: will Barack Obama show the leadership needed?
Speaker Boehner’s challenge is right on:
“Mr. President, this is your moment. We’re ready to be led, not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans. We want you to lead — not as a liberal or a conservative, but as the President of the United States of America. We want you to succeed. Let’s challenge ourselves to find the common ground that has eluded us. Let’s rise above the dysfunction and do the right thing together for our country in a bipartisan way.”