Results are still being tabulated, but currently the president is winning the popular vote by approximately 2.5%. As of 11:20 a.m. Wednesday morning, the popular vote count was 59,903,905 for Obama and 57,208,649 for Romney.
As election coverage winds down and before the news media makes the shift to 24/7 coverage of the "fiscal cliff," let's take a look at the big takeaways from last night's election results:
1. IT'S STILL THE ECONOMY, STUPID
Exit polls indicated that 60% of voters thought that the economy was the most important issue. What does that say about the Republican plan when a Democratic incumbent with a 7.9% unemployment rate got re-elected? Nothing good.
First, talk of social issues still dominated much of the discussion thanks to the kicking and screaming of the socially conservative wing of the Republican party. While Romney and Ryan both tried to pull the message back to the economy, continuous disruptions from the likes of Tea Party candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock helped derail the conversation in favor of Democrats. The party of "fiscal responsibility" sure spent too much time talking about rape and regulating birth control to convince the American people that they actually cared about fixing the economy.
Moreover, despite Americans being worried about the state of the economy under President Obama, the majority of voters still held George W. Bush and congressional Republicans accountable for the damage they did from 2001-2009. Romney's message of doubling down on Bush policies by way of his mathematically unexplainable tax plan and the Ryan budget sent people running to vote for the other guy. The million vote question is, will the GOP learn?
2. DEMOGRAPHICS AREN'T LOOKING GOOD FOR THE GOP
President Obama is on track to become the first president ever elected while losing the white vote. This should be sending off alarm bells for GOP strategists around the country. Republicans have not won any racial demographic other than whites in the last half century, and now, they can no longer depend on white male voters to carry them to victory.
Early reports show Latinos breaking for Obama by 70%-75%. That sort of split will continue to be absolutely back-breaking for the GOP as the Latino population grows and the white population continues to shrink. Conservatives need to do some soul-searching and they need to do it quick. Without immediate shifts to their stance on immigration and other issues, the GOP will be unable to survive moving forward thanks to simple demographic trends.
The Southern strategy was always destined to fail, but for many Republican strategists, it is failing far faster than they expected.
3. COMPLAINING ABOUT THE "BIAS" OF NUMBERS IS NOT A WINNING STRATEGY
Over the last few weeks, we heard non-stop complaints from the GOP about the “skewing” of national polls. Conservatives accused pollsters of inflating Democratic turnout to make the race look like a lock for Obama to discourage turnout.
The polls showing huge Democrat turnout were right on the money and Nate Silver is on track to go perfect in state-by-state predictions (making him 99/100 on state electoral predictions in two election cycles).
While complaining about perceived bias makes the echo chamber happy, it's very harmful to the political outlook of half the country. As I've said before, convincing 50% of the country that the election was stolen by biased numbers only further polarizes the country on the basis of misinformation and good old fashioned "malarkey." Here's to hoping that come 2014, the GOP pollsters focus on the political reasons for why they're losing in the polls, rather than putting up the straw-man of some great math-based conspiracy.
4. BIG MONEY ISN'T QUITE THE TRUMP CARD IT WAS MADE OUT TO BE
Somewhere, Sheldon Adelson is having a great deal of buyer's remorse. After giving tens of millions to Republican candidates, all Adelson had to show for it was a delayed Romney concession speech.
Liberal fears that the election would be simply be bought after Citizens United did not come true. Despite the overwhelming majority of super PAC money being spent in support of Romney and the GOP, Democrats still carried the night due primarily to voter turnout and mobilization efforts.
Political donations and Citizens United will still remain the focus of attention from left-leaning politicians and advocacy groups, but their doomsday calls of big money simply buying the election did not come to pass. Money might buy more ads, but it still doesn't buy votes.
5. THE POLITICS OF OBSTRUCTION IS NOT A WINNING FORMULA
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made it clear that his number one goal was making Obama a one-term president. Instead of attempting to govern pragmatically, McConnell and Senate Republicans did their utmost to block, obstruct, and inhibit the president's agenda. The voters noticed but not in a good way.
Last night, the GOP lost seats in the House and went from being expected to take a majority in the Senate, to only pick up only a single seat (that of retiring Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska), while losing three others — Indiana, Maine, and Massachusetts. Former GOP Chairman Micheal Steele called it a "spanking," and he couldn't have been more right. The American people were clear in holding Republican obstruction accountable for the debt ceiling debacle and the stubborn unemployment rate.
But with the filibuster still around and neither side taking the 60 vote super-majority necessary these days to get anything passed, the potential for obstructionism still exists. Whether the GOP will pursue the same losing agenda of stubborn stonewalling remains to be seen. If they do, expect another rough year for congressional Republicans in 2014.
6. WOMEN ARE MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD
Women made their voices heard in record numbers last night, resulting in the largest number of women ever sent to the Senate. New Hampshire became the first state to have its entire federal delegation and governor consist entirely of women and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin became the state's first female Senator and the first openly gay Senator in America.
While still criminally underrepresented, women are making consistent gains in elected office, primarily thanks to the hardened anti-female rhetoric of the loonier fringes of the Republican party (women went for Obama by roughly 10 points on average). Republicans may call the "war on women" a liberal invention, but it sure seemed to have real effects last night - all but one of the female Senators elected last night were Democrats.
7. THE TIDE HAS OFFICIALLY TURNED IN THE FIGHT TO LEGALIZE GAY MARRIAGE
After a long 0 for 32 run with public referendums and ballot initiatives, marriage quality finally broke their slump last night. All marriage equality initiatives on the ballot last night secured passage (Maine, Maryland, and Washington), marking the first time that gay marriage has ever been approved by a majority of voters in any state. And in Minnesota, an attempt to add an amendment banning gay marriage to its constitution, failed.
Coupled with Tammy Baldwin's (D-Wisc.) election as the first openly gay senator and the Supreme Court's inevitable ruling on either DOMA or Prop 8, gay rights are set to have a landmark year in legislatures and courts around the country. Opponents of marriage equality are on the wrong side of history and that truth is finally starting to show.
8. VOTING ISSUES NEED TO BE FIXED
Reports of thousands of voters being forced to stand in line for hours were everywhere last night, a fact that should be completely unacceptable in the United States. President Obama correctly noted that this problem needs to get fixed in his acceptance speech last night and addressing these problems should be a top priority for the 113th Congress next year.
Inadequate polling places, poor opening hours, and draconian ID requirements have no place in a democracy that wants to engage more, rather than fewer, citizens. Voting should be open and accessible to all citizens and the states and federal government needs to look into kinks that gummed up the system last night. For example, swing states like Florida and Virginia were forced to stay open for hours after the polls officially closed due to the immense turnout and poor availability/efficiency of polling places. With thousands of polls estimating turnout made publicly available, that shouldn't be happening. Whether it’s more resources, training, or more early/alternative voting opportunities, the problems that slammed voting precincts on Election Day 2012 must be addressed moving forward.
9. THE YOUTH VOTE MATTERS
Perhaps most important to us here at PolicyMic, the youth vote was vindicated as voter turnout among the 18-30 demographic increased from 2008's record numbers. Making up 19% of the electorate, young voters went to Democrats by overwhelming margins. Their participation and engagement means that the party that addresses the needs and interests of millennials stands to benefit greatly.
Thanks again everyone for following along live last night! We had another record-breaking night at PolicyMic and couldn't have been happier to have you join us for the ride. Remember, the youth vote matters, and nowhere is the youth voice better heard than right here at PolicyMic.