At 11:18 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday night, it was announced that President Barack Obama won re-election to his second term as president of the United States. He surpassed the threshold of 270 electoral votes by winning the state of Ohio. Despite the considerable difference in electoral votes, Obama remains in a near tie with Mitt Romney in the popular vote as of early Wednesday morning.
The state of Pennsylvania played a significant role in the electoral process. With 20 electoral votes, it carries the fourth-most amount and is perennially considered a significant victory for the candidate who wins it. Despite a strong push by the Romney campaign late in the race—including a last-minute visit to Yardley, Pa., in the final hours before polls closed Tuesday evening—Obama took the state by nearly a 10 percent margin. Only 13 of Pennsylvania’s counties, including our own Montgomery County, voted for Obama, yet he still won the state. Such disparity perpetuates the notion that Pennsylvania is won in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Historically, a Republican candidate has not won the state since George H.W. Bush in 1988. While not necessarily a perennial battleground state, Pennsylvania was more highly sought in the 2012 election.
Of the major battleground states, Obama carried Ohio and Wisconsin, while Romney took North Carolina. By midnight on Tuesday, Florida and Virginia remained too close to call.
On Monday, the last full day of the campaign, Obama made perhaps his strongest push in the state of Ohio when he held an event at Ohio State University where he was joined by musical artists Jay-Z and Bruce Springsteen in order to persuade as many last-minute voters as possible. With 18 electoral votes, it has been one of the most hotly contested states in recent elections, going to George W. Bush in 2004 and Obama in 2008, each by a margin of less than 5 percent.
Romney’s greatest success in the battleground states occurred in North Carolina. Despite Obama’s victory there in 2008, Romney edged out a win by a 2.2 percent margin. North Carolina presents a peculiar scenario due to its “Golden Triangle,” a region defined by Duke University, University of North Carolina and North Carolina State, which holds the nation’s highest concentration of individuals with PhDs. With the tendency of educated intellectuals to cast Democratic votes, this region asserts significant opposition to the traditionally conservative rural parts of the state.
The closeness of Virginia’s race, however, was not surprising. In past elections, Virginia’s 13 electoral votes have been vital in ascertaining the presidency, going to Obama in 2008 and Bush in 2004. Its eastern counties, containing suburbs of Washington, D.C., tend to side with the liberal sentiments of our nation’s capital and other populous hubs, such as Richmond, Norfolk and Roanoke, follow suit. Counties in the periphery of these areas in the Shenandoah Valley, however, share a propensity toward the Republican vote.
Florida served as the election’s biggest toss-up, going into Wednesday still virtually tied through 96 percent of polls, reporting the candidates in a fractional deadlock hovering around the 49-percent mark. The state’s ever-increasing populations of retirees and Latino immigrants produce a political tension in which no clear advantage can be awarded to either candidate.
The race remained too close to call as polls closed and votes were counted in the eastern and central United States. As the night went on, however, Obama gained vital electoral votes from Western states, such as California, Oregon, Washington, New Mexico and Colorado.
Throughout the election season, a number of events generated some abnormal conditions for voting. Most notable were the effects of Hurricane Sandy, which hindered—and in some cases, prevented—people in New York and New Jersey from reaching the polls on Election Day. While these states were not necessarily swing states with significant weights in the outcome of the presidential election, voter displacement in certain counties altered local and congressional races. Various methods of provisional balloting and extension of the voting period were implemented, but it is unclear whether such means maintained the normal rate of voter turnout.
Additionally, the Pennsylvania legislature unsuccessfully attempted to suppress the vote by proposing a law that would have required voters to show a state-issued ID in order to vote. The law was halted in Pa. Commonwealth Court just weeks before the election, postponing the enforcement of such a law until next year. The University offered a remedy to the would-be law by giving eligible student voters an official sticker for their Wildcards, validating it as a Pa. ID card. Although the law was not enacted, it still produced some confusion as television advertisements continued to run and certain individuals were still questioned at the polls. It is not clear to what extent, but voter suppression indeed occurred.
Members of the University community chimed in with their analyses and reactions once the results unfolded. Lara M. Brown, PhD., and associate professor in the political science department, attributed Obama’s 2012 success to voter turnout. She insisted that “the Democrats managed to achieve a 6-percent margin over the Republicans according to the exit polls,” gaining a critical advantage in the electorate. Furthermore, she noted that minority demographics turned out “in numbers matching, and in some instances beating, their 2008 highs.”
David Straple, president of the Villanova Political Awareness Club, also commented on the election’s outcome, expressing a general apathetic attitude of students toward both candidates. He indicated that students are “disillusioned by the hyper-partisan nature of Washington and are now more cynical about the process than ever before.”