In some ways, the hardest thing President Obama had to do was get reelected.
Ezra Klein, a business columnist for The Washington Post, wrote Wednesday that “President Obama’s reelection, ironically, isn’t about hope and change. The hope is largely gone, but the changes are already happening.”
Klein pointed out that health care reform had passed and that just by being reelected Obama had managed to confirm that it would become the law of the land when most of the remaining elements of Obamacare take effect in 2014.
The Bush tax cuts are set to expire at the end of the year, as well as the alternative minimum tax and the payroll tax cut. The president already has said he will not sign legislation extending all three tax cuts.
If that’s the case, then part of the problem of raising revenue is somewhat resolved and the legislation is already on the books.
Add to that the Dodd-Frank financial reform act, which will set new regulations for Wall Street and has already passed into law.
The resolutions to three sticky problems are already on the books and Obama doesn’t have to fight with the Republican-led House of Representatives again to get any of it passed.
“So while in 2008 his election was a vote for hope, in 2012 his reelection carries a guarantee of change,” Klein wrote.
One also may argue that it simply was more of the smart planning that Obama and his team have been known for.
The Obama campaign played it close to the vest, but it tracked numbers even before the campaign began and went into what the president has often called “the silly season” knowing it had a large majority of electoral votes essentially tied up and that it only needed a few of the so-called swing states to go his way to make it a wrap.
He went into Election Day knowing the race likely would be close, but more than fairly confident he had the numbers to win.
The campaign began working on the ground last year, reviving his field organization and listening to what voters wanted, what resonated with them and where he was most vulnerable. It also figured out fairly early in the Republican primary process that Mitt Romney was likely to emerge as the nominee and realized it could seize on Romney’s inability to connect with the average, working-class American.
And while the president was riding high after the Democratic National Convention, the field troops were getting supporters to take advantage of voting early, getting a huge jumpstart on the Republicans.
To be sure there were slips and dips along the way and mild panic ensued when Obama turned in a lackluster performance in the first debate. In some ways, though, even that played to Obama’s advantage.
While the president seemingly failed to engage Romney, he let the Republican candidate talk – and talk, and talk – and the president took notes. As did his campaign, supporters and the news media.
They all noticed that Romney had contradicted much, if not most, of everything he had campaigned on up to that point on issues that were dear to conservatives.
Despite saying early in the campaign he would cut back or eliminate a number of federal entitlements and certain tax breaks, Romney instead said he would continue to support Medicare and Social Security for current retirees and those nearing retirement (55 and older), he would invest in education and training programs, which he earlier had said would lose funding. In fact, he kept touting his five-point economic plan without ever enumerating the points.
Romney gave the president plenty of fodder for the subsequent debates.
In hindsight, could it be considered a little political rope-a-dope, perhaps?
He also had a little help from the Republican’s inability to connect with black and Latino voters in any substantial way, as well as women voters.
The GOP’s strategy was to rely largely on white men and shave off small chunks, 5-7 percent of black and Latino votes, a significant percentage of women, although not a majority, to put Romney over the top.
It clearly didn’t work.
“2012 will be the last campaign where one of the major parties seeks to get elected solely with the white vote,” David Bositis, senior political analyst for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, said Wednesday in a forum to discuss the impact of the black vote during this year’s campaign.
Bositis said the black vote was crucial in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Florida, the latter where votes are still being counted and Obama maintains a narrow lead—and Romney today conceded the state to Obama.
In Ohio, particularly, the percentage of black voters increased by 4 percentage points, from 11 to 15 percent of the total turnout, compared to 2008. And Obama won 96 percent of the black vote on Tuesday.
“That’s where President Obama’s margin of victory came from, the black vote in Ohio,” Bositis said.
In the end Obama didn’t need all the swing states, just a couple to add to the sizeable lead he had built. And while voters and the pundits speculated, debated and fretted, the president basically knew it was already in the bag, because he had planned for it.
Jackie Jones, a journalist and journalism educator, is director of the career transformation firm Jones Coaching LLC and author of “Taking Care of the Business of You: 7 Days to Getting Your Career on Track.”