Mitt Romney: Barack Obama: Tossup:

President Barack Obama (D) won re-election by defeating former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) on November 6, 2012.

The 2012 election results: Obama received 332 electoral votes to Romney’s 206 electoral votes, a decrease from the president’s 365 electoral votes in 2008. The Democratic ticket received 51.1% of the popular vote, while the Republican ticket received 47.2% of the vote. The 2012 campaign focused on economic issues including the Affordable Care Act and job creation.

The 2012 electoral vote map is above. Click on the states in the map to toggle them between Democrat, Republican and Tossup.

Primaries

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden won renomination as the Democratic ticket without substantial opposition. The frontrunners for the Republican nomination were Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum surpassed Gingrich as Romney’s main rival by narrowly winning the Iowa caucus. Romney faced criticism from Gingrich, Santorum, and other Republican candidates for his moderate tenure as governor of Massachusetts.

Gingrich won the South Carolina primary and Santorum won three primaries on February 7 by promoting socially conservative policies. Romney went on to win most primaries, though did not knock Santorum and Gingrich out of the race until April and May, respectively. Romney selected Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate.

Central Issues

Recovery from a serious recession and passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010 were defining issues of the Obama presidency. Congress passed and Obama signed a $831 billion stimulus package and the Obama administration approved loans to American automakers Chrysler and General Motors in 2009. These moves were designed to prevent further economic damage with the unemployment rate reaching 10.2% by October 2009. Obama stood by these policies during his campaign, while Romney criticized the administration for mismanaging stimulus funds.

Obama’s 2008 campaign included support for healthcare reform at the federal level. From February 2009 to March 2010, debate over healthcare reform extended beyond Congress to the general public. Conservatives like Sarah Palin criticized Democratic proposals for allegedly rationing care, covering undocumented immigrants, and driving insurers from the marketplace. The ACA was narrowly approved in Congress, introducing mandated coverage for all citizens and preventing denial of coverage based on preexisting conditions.

The economic stimulus package and ACA were motivating factors for the emergence of the Tea Party movement. This conservative movement supported by Americans for Prosperity led protests against Obama administration policies throughout his first two years. Movement-backed candidates were largely responsible for Republicans gaining 63 seats in the 2010 House elections to retake the chamber from Democrats.

Despite these conditions, Obama stood by his economic policies and the ACA. He pointed to repayments of federal loans under the stimulus and decreasing unemployment as signs of success. Obama also highlighted elements of the ACA that were popular when polled separate from the overall policy. Romney said that his first act in office would be ACA repeal in favor of tax credits to purchase private insurance.

Strategy

The Obama campaign portrayed Romney as a wealthy, disconnected candidate at a critical time in the nation. The campaign accused Romney of changing positions on the economic stimulus by pointing to his advocacy for stimulus during the 2008 presidential campaign. Romney was also criticized for business closures during his time as CEO of venture capital firm Bain Capital.

2012 election results

The Romney campaign portrayed Obama as naive and ineffective while highlighting Romney’s experience as governor, head of the 2002 Olympic Committee, and businessman. The campaign criticized Obama for his treatment of Israel and diplomacy toward Iran and Russia. Romney also sought to rally Tea Party conservatives by opposing the ACA and advocating tax cuts.

Obama’s approval rating was 52% among all respondents in early November 2012. Romney led Obama in the final Gallup pre-election poll 49% to 48%, predicting a close result on Election Day.

An unexpected variable in the presidential election was devastation brought to the Northeast by Hurricane Sandy in late October 2012. Obama was on track to win the impacted states prior to the hurricane but Gallup polling showed 68% approval for the president’s response to the hurricane.

2012 Election Results

Obama’s dominance over demographic groups in 2008 showed signs of weakness in 2012. Romney won the white vote by a wider margin than John McCain in 2008. Romney won independents 50% to Obama’s 45%, flipping Obama’s advantage over McCain from the previous election. Romney also chipped away at Obama’s support among voters younger than 65, winning voters aged 45 to 64 by a four-point margin.

The Electoral College map looked similar to the 2008 map with two exceptions. Obama won Indiana and North Carolina in 2008 as part of his victory over McCain. Romney won both states in 2012.

The 2012 presidential election also featured just four states with popular vote margins under 5%, reinforcing the firming of Democratic and Republican strongholds in national elections.