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Sunday, April 20, 2014  

How votes panned out to help president return
WASHINGTON US President Barack Obama confounded political logic by triumphing over a sluggish economy to win a second term in office.

A gruelling and often unpleasant campaign yielded, in the end, a decisive victory, built on the strong foundations laid down months ago by his crack campaign team.

Here are some of the keys to Obama’s win over Republican Mitt Romney.

The economy, despite tepid growth rates and high unemployment, was not bad enough to doom Obama, and he appears to have finally received belated credit for halting the slide into a second Great Depression.

When he took office in January 2009, the economy was losing 700,000 jobs a month, and while Americans are still dissatisfied with the economy, exit polls suggest they still blame ex-president George W. Bush as much as Obama.

Obama endured months of grisly monthly unemployment numbers, which told a tale of an economy struggling to gain steam.

He got a break over the last few months, as the unemployment rate dipped below the psychological barrier of eight per cent.

Consumer confidence and optimism began to rise along with the stock market, and Americans began to feel a bit more optimistic as house prices finally began a slow rise, despite a lingering foreclosure crisis.

In a twist of political history, Obama was helped by the embrace of his former Democratic antagonist, ex-president Bill Clinton, who buried the hatchet after Obama’s defeat of his wife Hillary in the 2008 Democratic primary.

Clinton, remembered for leading an era of economic prosperity, often made the case for Obama better than the president himself.

The two Democratic giants will now stand together in history as the only two Democrats to win a second term since World War II.

The Obama campaign made a gamble soon after Romney captured the Republican primary — to go negative.

Searing Obama ads and rhetoric branded the former investment manager a corporate vulture, who bought and sold firms for his own profit and heartlessly put good Americans out of work or shipped their jobs overseas.

The plan was to define Romney in a harsh light before he had the chance to introduce himself to Americans with a multi-million dollar blitz of television advertising in the swing states, like Ohio, which would decide the election.

Romney’s limp defence of his record as head of Bain Capital, and his missteps — including a refusal to divulge his complicated offshore tax arrangements and a video in which he was seen decrying 47 per cent of Americans as freeloaders who paid no income taxes — played into the stereotype.

By the time of Romney’s stellar performance in the first presidential debate in October, the damage had been done.

The killing of Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden in a daring Navy Seal raid in 2011 did not win Obama re-election. But it bolstered the image of the president as a steely commander-in-chief who kept Americans safe and defused the classic Republican attack that Democrats are weak and cannot be trusted on national security.

For the second election running, Obama’s campaign team has reinvented the way presidential elections are won.

The strategy: position Obama as a populist warrior for the middle class, and brand his opponent as a rich plutocrat oblivious to the suffering of regular Americans.

Obama’s team insisted all along that his coalition of young voters, Hispanics and African Americans, as well as the educated white middle class, would show up for him in 2012, just as they did in 2008.

Republicans scoffed, but they were proven wrong.

According to exit polls, 93 per cent of African-Americans backed Obama, along with 69 per cent of Latinos and 70 per cent of Jewish voters, and he was able to limit his losses among white voters.

Obama also won  victory among unmarried women voters, 68 per cent of whom backed him.

It was critical for Obama to retain the coveted voting bloc, especially because he lost support among white men, said Matt Barreto, a political scientist at the University of Washington who has tracked Hispanic sentiment for months.  

Obama made a strong effort to court the estimated 24 million eligible Hispanic voters, seeking to overcome discontent over his immigration policies.   

On his road to re-election, Obama had one group that proved most difficult to woo of all: white men. But in the end, he was able to withstand a flight of white male voters from his campaign where it mattered most.  

Obama saw his support among the country’s second-largest voting group decline from 41 per cent in 2008 to 36 per cent in 2012. His gap in support among white men ballooned from 16 percentage points in 2008, to 21 percentage points in Tuesday’s contest, according to Reuters/Ipsos Election Day polling.  

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