Obama wins re-election, renews call for bipartisanship to solve nation’s debt problem

President Barack Obama was re-elected to a second term on Tuesday, winning both the electoral and popular vote by a wider-than-expected margin.

By late Tuesday, Obama had secured 303 electoral votes, winning 25 states and the District of Columbia.

Notably, the race was called for Obama even before the votes in Florida were fully tallied, thanks to the Obama campaign’s “Midwestern firewall” of Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and (of course) Ohio where both campaigns waged fierce battles.

(Obama is leading Romney in Florida by nearly 52,000 votes. If Obama wins Florida and its 29 electoral votes, the President’s electoral count will grow to 332, well exceeding the 270 electoral votes need to win.)

The popular vote also cemented Obama’s win, much to the dismay of Republicans. As of Wednesday morning, Obama had garnered 61.1 million votes (or 50%) while GOP nominee Mitt Romney trailed behind with 58.1 million votes (or 48%).

Obama’s win margin may have been wider had 14 states – including swing states like Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, and Virginia – not enacted voting law changes that made it “significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012”.

2012 Electoral Map. SOURCE: C-Span.org

The voting laws passed by Republican-dominated state legislatures or decreed by Republican Governors in 14 states last year include: requiring specific photo IDs to cast in-person votes, reducing the number of early voting days, imposing more restrictions on absentee ballots and in-person early voting, getting rid of same day registration at the polls, purging voter rolls, and imposing strict regulations and hefty penalty fees on non-profits that operate voter registration drives.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, those voting law changes have disproportionately affected women, seniors, African-Americans, recently naturalized citizens, people with disabilities – all of which are demographic groups that have been more inclined to support Democratic candidates in recent years.

Obama, Romney call for bipartisanship to solve nation’s fiscal problems 

In his concession speech, Romney urged Republicans to set aside politics and work with the President to solve the nation’s fiscal problems – namely, reducing the immense national debt.

“The nation, as you know, is at a critical point,” Romney told his shell-shocked supporters in Boston. “In a time like this, we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work.”

“This is a time of great challenges for America, and I pray that the President will be successful in guiding our nation,” Romney said.

Indeed, great challenges confront the President even prior to the start of his second term.

On the domestic front, Obama faces a looming “fiscal cliff” – or a combination of tax increases and a trillion dollar automatic, across-the-board “sequester” cuts to both defense and non-defense discretionary spending set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2013.

Read more: CBO analysis shows ‘fiscal cliff’ will sharply reduce long-term deficits but lead to a recession in 2013

The Congressional Budget Office has repeatedly warned that going over the fiscal cliff would hurt the economy, potentially sparking a recession and pushing the unemployment rate back up to 9% next year.

However, sequestration could be averted if Congress and the President reach a $1 trillion deficit reduction deal by Dec. 31, 2012 as required by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

But whether a deficit deal is politically feasible remains to be seen. Despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent in the 2012 election cycle, the political landscape in Washington, D.C. has remained the same with Obama in the White House, Democrats in control of the Senate (but without a super majority to overcome filibusters), and Republicans holding on to the majority in the House.

In his victory speech, the President underscored the need for bipartisanship to “meet the challenges we can only do together.”

“Tonight, you voted for action – not politics as usual. You elected us to focus on your jobs – not ours,” Obama said.

Obama pointed out that Republicans and Democrats have a lot of common ground in what they hope for the future of America:

“We want our kids to grow up in a country where they have access to the best schools, the best teachers.

“A country that lives up to its legacy as the global leader in technology, discovery, and innovation – where all the good jobs and new businesses that follow.

“We want our children to live in America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.

“We want to pass on a country that’s safe and respected and admired around the world. A nation that is defended by the strongest military on earth and the best troops this world has ever known.

“But also a country that moves with confidence beyond this time of war to shape a peace that is built on the promise of freedom and dignity for every human being.

“We believe in a generous America, in a compassionate America, in a tolerant America – open to the dreams of an immigrant’s daughter who studies in our school and pledges to our flag.”

The President said recognizing those “common hopes and dreams” is the first step to help end the political gridlock and move toward reaching the “difficult” compromises needed to solve America’s problems.

“We are not as divided as our suggest. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions. And we were made more than the collection of red states and blue states,” said Obama. “We are and forever will be the United States of America, and together with God’s grace we will continue our journey forward and remind the world just why is that we live in the greatest nation on earth.”

Calls for bipartisanship fall on deaf ears; McConnell & Boehner signal protracted fight over over deficit, taxes

Republican House Speaker John Boehner at a post-election press conference. SOURCE: C-Span.org

However, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was unmoved by both Obama and Romney’s calls for bipartisanship.

Shortly after the election results were announced, McConnell took a very partisan swipe at Obama by proclaiming that voters re-elected the President to “simply [give] him more time to finish the job they asked him to do with a Congress that restored balance to Washington after 2 years of one-party control.”

“Now it’s time for the President to propose solutions that actually have a chance of passing the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a closely-divided Senate,” taunted McConnell, who famously said that his number one priority was to ensure that Obama remained a “one-term President.”

Republican House Speaker John Boehner took a slightly more conciliatory tone and acknowledged the need for bipartisan cooperation to avert the fiscal cliff.

“Mr. President, this is your moment. We’re ready to be led, not as Democrats or as Republicans but as Americans. We want you to lead, not as a liberal or a conservative but as a President of the United States of America. We want you to succeed,” said Boehner. “Let’s challenge ourselves to finding the common ground that has eluded us. Let’s rise above the dysfunction and do the right thing together for our country.”

However, Boehner’s insistence that the lame duck Congress shouldn’t pass a deficit reduction package, calling for more time despite more than 2 years of debates and Congressional hearings, revealed a very partisan posturing.

Pushing off the deficit deal until after the New Year would give Republicans more political leverage because Congress would have to raise the debt ceiling and pass a continuing resolution to keep the federal government running.

In the past, House Republicans have held the debt ceiling hostage and brought the federal government to the brink of shut down to exact steep cuts to the domestic budget while leaving defense spending untouched and to extend tax cuts or tax preferences that disproportionately benefit the wealthy.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the lame duck Congress should not keep “kicking the can down the road.”

“We know what the issue is – we need to solve the issue. Waiting a month, 6 weeks, 6 months. That’s not going to solve the problem. We know what needs to be done. So I think that we should just roll up our sleeves and get it done,” said Reid. “The Republicans have to make a choice. We’re willing to work something out. We’re willing to work it out sooner rather than later. I don’t know how they think they benefit by waiting until sequestration kicks in.”


Learn More: