9. Low black and Latino turnout. Given the high unemployment, black and Latino voters were expected to stay home this election, voting in modest numbers compared to 2008 and dashing Obama’s reelection hopes.
However, voter turnout mirrored 2008 levels, with blacks making up 13 percent of the electorate, and Latinos increasing their share from 9 percent in 2008 to 10 percent in 2012. Fast growth in the Latino and Asian populations, and high black turnout in battleground states such as Virginia, Georgia and Ohio made the difference for the president.
And voters of color went overwhelmingly for Obama, with blacks, Latinos and Asians giving the president 93 percent, 71 percent and 73 percent of their votes, respectively.
10. Obama’s support for gay marriage would lower his support among blacks. Word on the street was that socially conservative, churchgoing African-Americans would turn their backs on the president once he publicly supported gay marriage. In reality, Obama received widespread praise from the black community for taking a stand supporting same sex unions, and received nearly exclusive support from them in the recent election.
11. Jewish voters are up for grabs and Israel is the main factor. Mitt Romney calculated that he could win the election, in part, by chipping away at Obama’s support among Jewish Americans, and persuade them to abandon the president over Israel and Iran. The reality is that Obama enjoyed 70 percent Jewish support this election cycle, which is consistent with other Democratic candidates. In Florida, Obama beat Romney on the issue of Israel by 32 points, and on Iran by 27 points, with substantial leads on foreign policy, economic issues and social security. A recent poll found that only 10 percent of Jewish-Americans listed Israel as their first or second most important issue.
12. Romney could win by winning the white vote. The Republican Party made a conscious decision to court the white vote and no one else. As a percentage of the electorate, whites dipped from 74 percent in 2008 to 72 percent in 2012. Romney won 59 percent of the white vote, including white evangelicals and Catholics and even a majority of whites in blue states. Eighty-eight percent of Romney supporters were white, which was not nearly enough for him to win.
Rather than embrace diversity and changing demographics, conservatives decided to double down on an anti-immigration platform, suppress black and Latino voters through voter ID laws, and arguably stoke white racial fears. A majority of babies born in the U.S. are of color, which means that one day whites will become a minority in the country. And Latinos account for half of the nation’s population growth over the past decade.
This may very well be the last election where Republicans attempt to win solely by maximizing the white vote and alienating everyone else. The strategy failed for Romney in any case, as he found there are not enough whites, particularly aging white men, to win a national election. A multiracial coalition carried President Obama to victory.
13. Romney would win the women’s vote over the economy. Romney tried to convince women that women cared more about the economy than their reproductive rights, and that abortion didn’t matter. Obama won the women’s vote 55 to 44 percent, due to the anti-abortion stance of the GOP ticket, and the controversial rape comments of Senate candidates Todd Akin (R-Missouri) and Richard Mourdock (R-Indiana). Romney failed to distance himself from the tea party extremism of the Republican Party, and paid the price in the voting booth.
14. The polls were wrong and/or overstating Obama’s lead. Some Republican politicos predicted a Romney landslide, claimed reputable polls incorrectly showed Obama ahead or overstated his lead, and took FiveThirtyEight’s master statistician Nate Silver to task for forecasting a greater than 90 percent chance of an Obama win. Silver correctly predicted the outcome of the election in 49 out of 50 states. There was no “Bradley effect” for the president, just a victory that the polls and prediction markets forecasted.
15. Super PACS would determine the outcome of the election. The rise of the Super PACS following the Supreme Court’s Citizens United Supreme Court decision ushered in an era of unlimited corporate money influence over elections. Secret money from undisclosed sources has influenced political campaigns, but Republican outside groups received little return on their billion-dollar investment in this election. For example, the Karl Rove Super PAC American Crossroads achieved a 1.29 percent return on investment for the $104.7 million spent on the election.
16. There is an enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans. Polls and public perceptions prior to the Election Day indicated an enthusiasm gap among President Obama’s base when compared to Republicans, giving Romney an edge in the race for the White House. In the end, however, the Democratic base—including women, minorities and young voters—came to the polls in equal or greater numbers compared to 2008. Turnout means everything, and the base was fired up. So was the Obama ground game.
Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove