President Obama now has the wind at his back
In winning re-election, Barack Obama secured more electoral votes than any Republican presidential candidate in the last 24 years. As of this writing, President Obama also won the popular vote. President Obama also yet again won in states such as Ohio, Virginia, Colorado and Iowa — states that Republicans won with equal ease in prior elections.
It is stunning to hear Republicans, who mere months ago boasted about how likely the president was to be defeated, now minimize the significance of the president's victory and suggest he does not have a mandate.
As conservatives frequently and loudly trumpeted throughout the campaign season, no president since FDR has won re-election with unemployment over 7.2%. Now that one has, they want to deny the magnitude of that victory and the reality it reflects — that the American people, nonetheless still frustrated by our stagnant economy, endorsed a continuation of the Democratic policies that are pulling us out of the mess and rejected the Republican ideology that caused it in the first place.
Republicans can do all the finger pointing they want — at Mitt Romney, his campaign, Hurricane Sandy, whatever — but the fact is that with a weak economy and sagging approval ratings, President Obama was highly vulnerable for defeat if Republicans could propose popular alternatives. But this election proved those Republican alternatives wildly unpopular.
The president now has the wind at his back, propelling a Democratic vision that balances a strong private sector with a supportive government and invests in the middle class while asking the wealthiest among us to pay their fair share.
Republican leaders have a choice. They can decide yet again to attack and obstruct the president on day one, or they can work toward bipartisan solutions that keep American on the path to recovery.
Yet while Republicans retained control of the House because of factionalized district elections, make no mistake about it — House Republicans have a dreadfully low approval rating and polls show Americans are more likely to blame Republicans than Democrats for gridlock in Washington.
Further, Tuesday's widespread defeat of Tea Party extremists — from Reps. Joe Walsh (IL) and Allen West (FL) to GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock in Indiana (a state that still voted 54% for Romney) — signals that the GOP's rigid adherence to social conservativism and trickle down economics just does not resonate with the American electorate.
Much has been made about the shifting demographics of our nation and the resulting crisis that looms for the Republican party. Indeed, while George W. Bush won 44% of Latino voters in 2004 and John McCain won 31% of Latinos in 2008, Mitt Romney garnered a mere 27% of the Latino vote. And young voters, who actually improved on their already-record turnout numbers in 2008, by and large voted Democrat.
These trends, and the fact that voters in three states (Washington, Maine and Maryland) voted for marriage equality while voters in one state (Minnesota) defeated an anti-marriage ballot measure, suggests that the electorate is moving further and further away from core Republican Party policies that are hostile toward immigration reform, gay rights, the environment and other issues about which these voters deeply care.
But while Republicans certainly have a big problem in the fast-approaching new demographic climate, the fact is that Republicans already have a big problem now. They lost abysmally in the current demographic environment. After Tuesday's election, anyone who still thinks America is a center-right nation should have their head examined.
My colleague Dick Morris notably predicted that Mitt Romney would defeat President Obama in a “landslide” winning 325 electoral votes to a projected 213 for Obama. Now that the president won with 303 to Romney's 206 electoral votes, Morris calls Obama's victory "a squeaker." But if Florida is declared for President Obama — which at this writing looks likely — the president's 332 electoral votes will make his already wide margin of victory even larger than what Morris considered would be a landslide for Romney.
That ain't no squeaker, folks.
Conservatives would have readily insisted on a Romney mandate even in the face of a smaller margin. But after four years of extraordinarily baseless and nasty attacks against the president, conservatives can't even bring themselves to simply acknowledge that the president won and that his victory is not the result of voter fraud or Chris Christie but the basic fact that the American voters chose liberalism over conservativism. Period.
Republicans would be wise to acknowledge the president's very clear and strong mandate and get on board — or else risk alienating the American public even further.