The president wins Ohio and strides to victory in the Electoral College.
Elected on hope in a season of despair, President Obama won his first term by being the right guy at the right time. He won his second term making Mitt Romney the wrong guy.
Obama turned what could have been a stinging referendum on his economic stewardship into a pass-fail test on Romney's character. A multi-million dollar media blitz casting aspersions on his extraordinary wealth and successful business career began weeks before Romney had even earned enough delegates to claim the nomination. In a campaign reminiscent of former President Bush's takedown of John Kerry's military record in 2004, Romney was not only stripped of his greatest asset in a race about how to stimulate economic growth, it became a liability.
"Obama won by thoroughly and completely trashing Mitt Romney and his reputation," said Republican pollster Whit Ayres. "It is the classic definition of winning ugly."
But to exclusively blame the attacks from Obama and his super PAC allies for Romney's defeat overlooks the Republican nominee's own shortcomings. The smoothly-coiffed, buttoned-down financier struggled to come across as a man of the people, a problem exacerbated by his vow to perpetuate tax breaks for the wealthy, several foot-in-mouth gaffes on the campaign trail, and a secretly recorded video of him at a tony fundraiser dismissing "47 percent" of Americans whom he said pay no income taxes and consider themselves "victims."
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The first African-American president also capitalized on an increasingly diverse electorate and used sophisticated turnout tools to make sure supporters, even casual ones, cast votes. "It's like the demographic changes are making the old rules about unemployment sinking an incumbent obsolete," said Democratic strategist Joe Trippi. "The Obama campaign knew they weren't supposed to get re-elected, so they figured out who they needed to register to vote and turn out to change that."