Obama’s victory came from a diverse coalition of women, minorities and younger voters while Romney racked up big margins among whites.
And already, Republican analysts were pointing to the steadily growing percentage of minority voters as a sign that the GOP needed to change its approach.
But Obama will still have to deal with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who will retain the gavel next year. Democrats fell well short of their quest to net the 25 seats needed to take back the House, which has been a killing ground for the president’s agenda for the past two years.
Boehner laid down an early marker in his victory speech at GOP headquarters against Obama’s repeated effort to raise tax rates on the wealthy back to the 39.6 percent rate they paid under President Bill Clinton. That’s been a staple of the president’s re-election campaign, which he based on restoring fairness to a middle class that has seen its incomes squeezed.
“With this vote, the American people have also made clear that there is no mandate for raising tax rates,” Boehner said. The statement appeared to leave open room for raising revenue in other ways, such as closing tax loopholes or limiting deductions.
Obama has previously said he would veto any extension of those tax breaks for the wealthy — the chief issue at stake as Congress tries to defuse a fiscal bomb of its own making by the end of the year.
Nor was there much of an olive branch toward enacting the rest of Obama’s agenda.
Still, Obama will have allies again in the Senate, where Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will remain Majority Leader after Democrats nearly swept the close races after a series of Republican missteps.
The combined Democratic victories solidify Obama’s legacy and assure that the GOP’s “repeal” agenda — including Obamacare and Dodd-Frank — is toast. And Republicans now face its own soul-searching between a still dominant conservative wing and more mainstream Republicans looking to move their party back to the center.
The win that put the president over the top was the critical state of Ohio — the focus of both candidates for months — and where Romney, his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Vice President Joseph Biden all made appearances on Election Day.
Exit polls showed that Obama’s rescue of General Motors and Chrysler helped him win the bellwether state. According to Fox News, exit polling showed Obama winning backers of the bailout, which was popular in the state, 75 percent to 23 percent.
And while many voters remained unhappy with the economy, many still blame Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, more than the president.
Obama held on to Wisconsin, Ryan’s home state, despite Ryan and the Romney campaign devoting enormous time and resources. He also won the key states of Colorado and Virginia, which were heavily targeted by both sides.
At Republican and Democratic election night events in Washington, D.C., it was clear Democrats had the better time.