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Semana, Colombia

Why Did Obama Win?


By Nathan Jaccard

Translated By Talisa Anderson

7 November 2012

Edited by Vic­to­ria Denholm


Colombia - Semana - Original Article (Spanish)

UNITED STATES ELECTIONS Although it was a difficult and tight fight, amid a difficult economic and financial crisis the president won re-election and will occupy the White House until 2016. These are the keys that explain his victory.

If the Barack Obama 2012 model had competed against the Barack Obama 2008 model, it would have been crushed. Back then Obama seemed like a politician from another world, who embodied hope. He ended up defeating Republican John McCain with 365 Electoral College votes and was over 10 million votes ahead. Moreover, thanks to the support of young people, Latinos and women, he won in states where the Democratic Party had never won. His victory, the first for an African-American, was historic. A new era seemed to be born in the United States.

Four years later, Obama returned a mere mortal. His presidency disappointed and his re-election was complicated by an aggressive and more competitive Mitt Romney than he had expected. Although Obama managed to keep the country afloat amid a terrible economic crisis, he nearly lost the presidency.

With another term, Obama can close his presidency without the pressure of a crisis and be able to implement his policies. With a little luck, the economy will begin to grow again and as a result it will ensure Obama a place in history.

These are the keys to Barack Obama’s victory:

1. The President Always Wins

Being president-in-office gives an important electoral advantage. In recent history, only four presidents failed to be re-elected.

Polls show that when there are still many undecided shortly before the elections, people tend to vote for the candidate already in office rather than risk someone new.

President Obama knew that his election could be decided in several key states such as Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania. Instead of dismantling his original campaign teams, he left campaigners in the most undecided counties to do a more long-term job. President Obama also visited these states numerous times. He was in Ohio and Florida several times during his campaign.

In comparison with this machinery, Romney began campaigning with almost nothing. Obama gained a natural advantage from a Republican primary that was unusually long, as it lasted until May and took away essential time and money from Romney. Obama, as president-in-office, did not have to compete in a primary, which saved a lot of wear.

The president is also known by the voters. Although they did not like his policies, it is much easier to project four more years with the person already in the White House than to risk it for a new one. As the saying goes, “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.”

2. Despite the Crisis, the Economy Has Improved

For 60 percent of Americans, the economy was their primary concern, and rightly so. Public debt is $16 trillion, there are 13 million unemployed Americans, 47 million people are receiving federal aid for food, 16 percent of the population is poor, and it is projected that the economy will grow by less than two percent this year. Close to 50 percent of voters agreed that Mitt Romney, a businessman, was the best person to handle the economy.

Obama got lucky as economic indicators improved during the campaign. In October, 170,000 new jobs were created and unemployment dropped to 7.9 percent, which was the lowest it has been since January 2009. Moreover, the confidence of consumers improved, the stock market had noticeably risen and the real estate crisis appeared to be waning.

These indicators were tenuous and shaky victories and did not guarantee that the economy would not relapse in a few months. This did not matter, however, as the election would be over. Obama succeeded in getting his message to stick: “Despite the disastrous state of the economy, I did the best I could.” Many citizens still blame George W. Bush for the economic disaster.

3. A Balance that is Not So Bad

When he was elected, Obama tried to personify “change” and “yes we can.” Expectations on him were enormous, although he did end up disappointing his constituents.

He did make clear and strong decisions. He injected $800 billion into the economy to stimulate growth. He invested in infrastructure, assistance to the poorest, education, health, housing and renewable energy. He imposed a reform on Wall Street bankers, regulated polluting industries and promoted legislation to protect consumers.

In 2009 he saved the two giants of the domestic automotive industry, General Motors and Chrysler, from bankruptcy. His campaign highlighted that thanks to that, more than one million people kept their jobs. In Ohio, one of the battleground states, where the weight of automobile factories is transcendental, an exit poll showed that 60 percent of the voters supported that bailout.

Furthermore, Obama led a difficult “mega reform” of the healthcare system. Prior to this reform in the United States, only those who wanted to or could be insured were insured. Thus, over 45 million Americans were living at the mercy of illness. Now coverage is mandatory for everyone and is subsidized with federal credits or employer contributions.

Although foreign policy was not a major campaign issue, it was here where Obama really stood out. He held off Iran and its nuclear program, withdrew the troops from Iraq, planned the exit strategy from Afghanistan, led a merciless war with drones against the Taliban in Pakistan and, above all, killed Osama Bin Laden.

4. Romney, a Candidate with Too Many Flaws

It was never easy for Mitt Romney. Since the Republican primaries, candidates of his own party criticized him for being a millionaire who could not connect with the average American. Romney was famous for changing sides and opinions whenever it suited him. Many criticized him because he could not inspire sympathy.

When the campaign began, Democrats attacked Romney with a fury. Some presented him as a vampire capitalist who had offshore accounts and led many businesses into bankruptcy after outsourcing their activities to China.

Although Romney managed to change his image a little in the debates, his frequent blunders did not help him. In a debate during the Republican primaries, he made a $10,000 bet with Texan Rick Perry. In a rally in Detroit, the automotive capital, he said that his wife had “a couple of Cadillacs,” the most luxurious cars in the industry. He also said that the $347,000 that he was paid for public appearances was “not much money.” Romney’s competition did not need to add much more to imply that he was an insensitive “Scrooge McDuck.”

In an exit poll in Florida, 53 percent of the voters said they felt that Obama understood them better.

To top it off, a hidden camera filmed [Romney] saying, “We are faced with 47 percent of voters who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it and will support him [Obama].”

His ideological positions were also not the most solid. As Governor of Massachusetts he was a moderate, centrist politician who agreed with Democrats to move forward with a common agenda. In contrast, to win the primaries and the extremist base of the Tea Party he made a turn to the far right. At the end of the campaign, he tried to return to the center to convince independents and the undecided, but it was too late.

Romney chose Paul Ryan as a vice presidential running mate, the leader of the ultraconservative revolution against the White House. In Congress he became famous for disputing Obama’s budgets and developing a counterproposal that the Nobel laureate in Economics Paul Krugman described as “sloppy and dishonest” because it favors the rich and hurts the poor. With Ryan on board, Romney showed that he was taking his campaign to the far right. And that, without a doubt, scared many.

5. The Sandy Factor

On the eve of the election, Hurricane Sandy hit the entire east coast of the country, leaving more than 80 dead, thousands of homes without electricity and billions of dollars in material damages. Obama put his campaign on pause and dressed again as president. People looked upon this favorably. Monitoring the progress of the storm and attending to those affected, Obama occupied key days and did his job so well that even Republican politicians recognized it.

Moreover, an editorial piece in The New York Times noted how, in contrast, Bush undermined the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA, the English acronym) that led to the chaos of Katrina and that some months ago Romney had endorsed a plan to privatize that service. The excellent performance of the agency thus became another triumph for Obama, who revitalized FEMA, while in the last hours Romney was left trying to qualify his position.



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