By Kara Hackett, Managing Editor November 6, 2012
When President Barack Hussein Obama was elected Nov. 4, 2008, he broke racial barriers and inspired hope about change. Four years later, Americans are asking for more, and this time change means steady movement forward. Around 11:18 p.m. CNN, NBC and Fox News, projected Obama's win when the president received Ohio's 18 electoral votes, putting him ahead of Republican challenger Mitt Romney 274 votes to 201 votes.
Although a Pew Research poll Monday showed Obama's support waning among key demographics, including youth, and Fox News projected a 7 percent decline in youth support on Tuesday night, America's first black president and 22nd incumbent president is re-elected. Now he's facing a country deeply divided by partisan pressures on the brink of a fiscal cliff.
Campaign recap Although Obama claimed a sweeping victory over Republican John McCain in 2008, this year's race to the White House was neck-and-neck until the end. Obama's campaign started strong and boasted a 48-41 point lead over Romney at the end of September, according to Reuters. But after the president's lackluster performance at the first presidential debate Oct. 3, his ratings dropped from 50 percent to 47 percent, creating a 47-47 tie with Romney, according to a Gallup poll.
Along with negligible gains in the Oct. 16 and Oct. 22 debates, the Huffington Post says Obama's campaign rebounded when the president demonstrated his stature and leadership in the wake of superstorm Sandy. The New York Times called the storm Obama's "October surprise."
Within two days of the election, Obama had a one point, 48-47 percent lead over Romney, according to a Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll of 3,805 likely voters.
The results were just as close in swing states Virginia, Colorado and Florida. But in Ohio, with 18 electoral college votes, Obama had a 48-44 percent lead over Romney as of Sunday. And Ohio was the deciding factor Tuesday night.
During Obama's rallies in Ohio last weekend, voters said his response to the storm helped build confidence in his presidency. "He restored the presidential appearance," Holly Brindley, a 57-year-old volunteer for the Obama campaign, told the Huffington Post. Junior history and political science major Jeffry Neuhouser says the storm assumed an even larger role in the election when Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey thanked Obama for his aid and comfort.
"That means a lot especially because he is a Republican governor responding to how well a Democrat president is doing," Neuhouser said. But now that the president has restored his term in the White House, he faces a nation not only devastated by natural disaster, but also more politically divisive than when he took office in 2008.
CNN says the partisan balance of Congress is largely the same with Democrats controlling the Senate and Republicans controlling the House. But both parties retain control at a smaller margin, making consensus even more difficult.
Avoiding the fiscal cliff On Sunday, CNN published an article in which a dozen anonymous senior Democrats close to the White House spoke out about the president's post-election agenda.
They said the first issue Obama will tackle is the impending fiscal cliff, or threats to America's financial stability. Bank of America conducted a survey of 253 global investors Sept. 7-13 and found that investors call the fiscal cliff their biggest concern - making it more concerning than the European debt crisis for the first time since April 2011. Analysts say three issues threaten to push America over the fiscal cliff:
- First, the Bush-era tax cuts expire Dec. 31, meaning a return to higher rates unless a new policy is set.
- Second, a $1.2 trillion sequester, or package of automatic spending cuts, is set to take place during the next nine years from 2013-2021. Officials expect the sequester to lead to a "hollowed out" military, fewer social programs and major job losses unless legislators make a budget deal to avoid the cuts.
- Third, America is set to hit a new debt ceiling mid-spring.
On his campaign website, Obama proposes $2.50 in spending cuts for every dollar in revenue increases. The president also plans to reduce deficit by more than $4 trillion during the next decade.
CNN says Obama wants to get a debt-reduction deal in the first six months of 2013. The president's long-term economic plan also includes investing in education, small businesses, clean energy, infrastructure and tax cuts for companies that create U.S. jobs instead of shipping jobs overseas, according to his campaign website. But Senior Political Analyst Michael Barone of The Washington Examiner says Obama has been too vague about his plans for addressing tax policy and budget deficits.
Barone unfavorably compares the president to Woodrow Wilson, the only other president in American history to win a second term by a smaller popular vote percentage and electoral vote margin than when he was first elected.
"Presidents who get re-elected usually offer second term agendas," Barone wrote in The Washington Examiner. "Obama hasn't, especially on the economy." But supporters of the president say his track record of 32 months of consecutive job growth and 5.4 million new private sector jobs is enough to ensure his credibility.
Obama's focusing on growing the economy through "middle out" policies that favor the middle class instead of "top down" policies that favor the nation's wealthiest, according to his campaign website.
"We're not going to go back to what we were doing before," Obama said. "We're moving forward."