The presidential election is over, and Barack Obama keeps his job in the White House for another four years. While some are applauding the president and his team for waging a successful campaign against adversary Mitt Romney and holding the Republicans at bay, the Obama victory accomplished something else: It debunked myths that were perpetuated over the course of this election season, whether by political campaigns, by pundits and prognosticators, or by word of mouth.
Here are the biggest myths that were debunked in this week’s election:
1. Obama can’t get re-elected with unemployment near 8 percent. Before November 6, no president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt had been reelected to a second term with unemployment as high as it is today, which is just under 8 percent (7.9 percent to be exact). Republicans promoted the narrative that the high unemployment reflected a failure of Obama’s policies.
However, with the economy improving, unemployment falling below 8 percent, and 171,000 jobs added in October, voters decided to stay the course and stick with the president, who they believed cares more about the middle class and the poor than his opponent. Oddly, those voters who were most concerned about unemployment and high prices were more likely to blame Bush—not Obama—for the nation’s economic predicament.
Meanwhile, the president scored points in Michigan and Ohio for the auto bailout, and from an economic stimulus that, however insufficient, helped stabilize the economy.
2. The youth vote is disengaged and unenthusiastic. Conventional wisdom dictated that in 2012, young voters—disillusioned and disengaged— would abandon Obama and deprive him of the impressive numbers he earned in his 2008 run. Meanwhile, voters between 18 and 29 were 19 percent of the U.S. electorate this November, a percentage increase over 2008. Although the President won the youth vote by a smaller margin nationwide this year, in the battleground states of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, his margin stayed about the same or widened.
3. Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin are ‘swing states’. A swing state is one in which no single party has a lock on the Electoral College. So, who said Pennsylvania was a swing state? The Keystone State has not been swing state for some time, as it has voted Democratic in each presidential election since 1992. Similarly, the1988 election was the last time heavy labor Michigan voted for a Republican, and it has leaned Democratic ever since. And Wisconsin hasn’t voted for a Republican presidential ticket since it voted for Reagan in 1984.
4. Paul Ryan would be a boon to Romney’s ticket. Rep. Paul Ryan was popular among beltway Republicans, but not so much with the majority of the American electorate. Moreover, Ryan failed to capture his home state of Wisconsin. As chair of the House Budget Committee, Ryan became known as the architect of a controversial budget that would have privatized Medicare, and was blasted by Catholic bishops for its harsh treatment of the poor.
5. Ryan’s addition to the GOP ticket would lead to a substantive discussion on the budget and Medicare. Ryan gained a reputation for being a policy wonk, a man with big ideas. But it turns out his record was lacking and paltry, given that his budget ideas all came from the Heritage Foundation. Plus, the Congressional Budget Office found that Ryan’s Medicare plan would actually increase health care costs.
6. The Romney had momentum that was surging only to be stopped by Hurricane Sandy. If Romney was stopped by a hurricane, it was Hurricane Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey who spoke at the GOP convention, and praised Obama for his response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. The notion that Romney experienced a surge in popularity, a “Mitt-mentum” if you will, was overstated by the governor’s campaign, in the hopes of influencing the media and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Romney did experience a lift from his performance in the first debate, but it didn’t last. In fact, he stalled after the vice presidential debate and the second presidential debate.
7. Independents don’t break for incumbents late in the race. One of the most compelling arguments for a Romney victory was the so-called incumbent rule, which says that undecided voters will break to the challenger in the last days of the campaign. However, statistical evidence shows the rule does not apply to presidential elections anymore. Polls on the eve of the election found undecided voters with high favorability ratings for Obama, better than the national average and far better than Romney’s ratings.
8. Benghazi/Libya would be important to voters. Republicans and conservative media outlets politicized the deadly terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in an attempt to manufacture a scandal with allegations of a cover-up, and paint the Obama administration as incompetent on foreign policy. But Benghazi was not on the voters’ radar. A CNN exit poll found the economy was the major issue for voters at 60 percent, followed by health care at 17 percent, the deficit at 17 percent, and foreign policy with 4 percent.