Victory in Hand, Obama Extends Olive Branch

 

Obamas and Bidens; photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Biden and Jill Biden celebrate Tuesday night. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

Barack Obama was elected to a second term as president Tuesday, reassembling the coalition that lifted him to a historic win four years ago and winning at least six of the key battleground states.

The Democratic incumbent received 50 percent of the vote nationwide to 48 percent for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. In terms of the raw vote, Mr. Obama had a lead of about 2.5 million ballots as of Wednesday morning, with counting still left to go in some states.

The battle for Electoral College supremacy was not as close as the two-point margin would suggest, with Mr. Obama besting his Republican rival by a 303 to 206 score. Florida and its 29 electoral votes remain up for grabs, as the president holds a narrow lead in the Sunshine State (less than 50,000 votes out of more than 8 million cast) with 97 percent of the returns counted.

After months of fierce campaigning that exposed deep divisions between the two major political parties, Mr. Obama called on both sides to come together and fulfill the wishes of the American people.

“Tonight you voted for action, not politics as usual. You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours,” Mr. Obama told supporters gathered in his hometown of Chicago. “And in the coming weeks and months I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together — reducing our deficit, reforming our tax code, fixing our immigration system, freeing ourselves from foreign oil.”

The president praised Romney for his family’s legacy of public service and remarked that he hoped to sit down with the Republican in the weeks ahead “to figure out where we can work together to move this country forward.”

Romney delivered a brief but gracious statement in front of supporters in Boston as he conceded the race.

“This is a time of great challenges for America, and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation,” Romney said, adding that he and his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan (re-elected to his House seat Tuesday, incidentally), had left “everything on the field.”

But the night belonged to the 44th president of the United States, who achieved a second term despite a sluggish economic recovery and fierce attacks by Republicans on his policies, most notably the health care overhaul passed in 2010.

With four years of governing ahead of him, Mr. Obama closed on a note of unity, drawing from the 2004 Democratic National Convention speech that propelled him into the national spotlight. “We are not as divided as our politics suggest. We are not as cynical as the pundits believe,” he said. “We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.”

Watch the president’s speech in full here or below:

It appears Mr. Obama’s call for a renewed sense of bipartisanship will not take long to be tested. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has scheduled a news conference for Wednesday afternoon in Washington, and in the days leading up to the election he went on record saying he was opposed to raising taxes, even on those people earning more than $1 million a year.

Romney was given plaudits for streaming Mr. Obama’s speech on his campaign website. Watch Romney’s concession speech here or below:

With Florida’s results still outstanding, and voters still in line in Miami at 1:40 a.m. ET waiting to cast ballots, let’s take a look at how the map shook out. Mr. Obama was able to capture all the other battlegrounds: Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, New Hampshire and Virginia, and came close in North Carolina.

He won those states in part thanks to demographic shifts and huge margins among women, young people, African-Americans and Latino voters, who backed him 71 percent to Romney’s 27 percent.

In Ohio, the battleground of battlegrounds, exit polls showed the government bailout of the auto industry had an impact. Nearly six in 10 Buckeye State voters backed the rescue, and 75 percent of them supported the president.

It’s worth noting that 78 percent of voters told exit pollsters they made up their mind about the presidential race before the first debate in October.

Check out the results for yourself in the NewsHour’s Vote 2012 Map Center.

WHAT’S NEXT?

As the NewsHour’s political team pointed out on air Tuesday night, the evening gave clear signals about the changing face — and attitudes — of the nation. From the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington to voters backing same-sex marriage for the first time in four states, we’ll be taking a look on Wednesday’s NewsHour at what messages were sent as Americans cast their ballots.

Exit polls Tuesday showed that nearly half of Americans (47 percent) favor increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans — an issue Mr. Obama made one of the central underpinning of his re-election bid. Another 13 percent said taxes on all Americans should increase. But 63 percent of voters do not believe taxes should be raised to decrease the deficit.

Congress has big questions ahead. Boehner’s news conference on Wednesday may suggest that lawmakers will quickly get to work as they attempt to hammer out a deal on taxes and spending with important deadlines looming on automatic cuts to the federal budget.

A little-noticed Washington Post story over the weekend by Zachary Goldfarb teed up what we might see in the coming days if the White House wants to use its unilateral power to buy some time.

Goldfarb wrote that the Obama administration could freeze “how much in taxes is taken out of payroll checks” and could shift “available money toward paying immediate costs — such as government employee salaries — rather than saving for construction projects later in the year.”

CONTROLLING WASHINGTON

It was a night of contrasts as Mr. Obama continued to rack up victories in swing states.

Democratic Senate candidates, from Tim Kaine to Tammy Baldwin to Elizabeth Warren, were swept to victory in competitive races thanks in part to the president’s win. Rep. Joe Donnelly toppled state treasurer Richard Mourdock in Indiana, a gain for the Democrats in a state they’d thought was a goner a few short weeks ago.

But in House contest after House contest, Democrats fell short of their goal to reclaim a net of 25 seats to win back the majority. Northeastern Republicans had a bad night, with both of New Hampshire’s House seats flipping back to the Democrats and the Democrats keeping all of their seats in Massachusetts despite a competitive race between Rep. John Tierney and openly gay Republican Richard Tisei. It could be days before there’s a final tally indicating the balance of power in the chamber, but the early indications are that redistricting made an enormous difference in GOP efforts to shore up its strongholds in the South.

Tea Party favorite Rep. Allen West of Florida was among the Republican incumbents losing his seat, but Rep. Michele Bachmann held on in what was a closer-than-expected race to the finish in Minnesota. Freshman Republican Rep. Joe Walsh was unseated by Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth in Illinois. Democratic Rep. Kathy Hochul, who won thanks to opposition to the Ryan budget plan in a special election, was toppled in New York.

Member-vs.-member races shook out from the Midwest to the West Coast, with Rep. Brad Sherman defeating Rep. Howard Berman in a Democratic skirmish in California, and GOP Rep. Tom Latham unseating Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell in Iowa.

The consequences of California’s “jungle primary” were still shaking out, with Rep. Pete Stark losing his re-election bid to an upstart Democrat. The rematch between Republican Rep. Dan Lungren and his Democratic rival Ami Bera was too close to call Wednesday morning.

Overnight, appointed Republican Sen. Dean Heller won his seat outright, defeating Rep. Shelley Berkley in Nevada despite the president’s victory in the Silver State.

Still outstanding are the Senate contests in Montana and North Dakota. Sen. Jon Tester was holding on to a slim 17,000-vote lead over Rep. Denny Rehberg in Montana, and Democrat Heidi Heitkamp held a less than 3,000-vote lead over freshman GOP Rep. Rick Berg with all of the precincts reporting results.

As Roll Call’s Shira Toeplitz reported, North Dakota has an automatic recount if the winning margin is less than 0.5 percent. And Shira pointed out in the NewsHour livestream Tuesday that it’s the only state without voter registration, opening up the opportunity for legal complaints.

NEWSHOUR ROUNDUP

The NewsHour captured a bunch of the speeches from the night on our YouTube page.

Here’s Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill:

LIVIN’ LARGE IN THE LIVESTREAM

Our livestream lineup was robust all day long. The video below is just a sample of the types of interviews Christina and Hari Sreenivasan knocked out in the newsroom and using Google hangouts.

Peruse the conversations with campaign finance experts, journalists and more here.

Hari and Christina also stuck it out for the AfterHours livestream. We took your questions and kept it, shall we say, super casual.

Watch here or below.

Christina will appear on public radio’s “The Kojo Nnamdi Show” on Wednesday for post-game analysis. Tune in.

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Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers, @kpolantz, @indiefilmfan, @tiffanymullon, @dePeystah, @meenaganesan and @abbruns.

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