President Barack Obama will not have to vacate the Oval Office for another four years, defeating Republican and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on Tuesday night.
Obama maintained his position with nearly 100 more electoral votes than Romney, as well as edging out his counterpart in the popular vote.
His re-election, local political leaders and experts said, is due in large part to his appeal to a variety of demographics.
According to exit polls conducted Tuesday, about 53 percent of voters felt Obama was more in touch with people like them than Romney was.
“I don’t know if it was one particular moment that set those people apart, or if it was just their particular belief system and the party politics — I’m not sure,” said Kris Yardley, chairman of the Hall County Republican Party. “But we failed again, particularly with female voters and this time I think it was a pretty big divide in the Hispanic vote.”
Exit polls showed women, young, black and Hispanic voters favored Obama over Romney.
Men, whites and those with family incomes of $50,000 or more favored Romney.
The statistics are no surprise to those keeping an eye on the nation’s political landscape.
“I’m very excited (about Obama’s re-election),” said Jim Taflinger, chairman of the Hall County Democrats. “I think the message is the country has moved to center from center-right. You also see it in the Senate races.
“I think fiscally conservative is still out there, but I think regarding the social issues — issues like immigration — I think that people want solutions and they’re tired of all this back and forth, and I think the solution is the center.”
And it was Romney’s far-right-leaning campaign, Taflinger said, that ultimately lost him favor with some demographics.
“I think the message of the Republicans and some of the far right has truly turned off people,” he said. “I think Romney went way too far to the right and I think that’s something Republicans are going to have to look at.”
But Yardley said it’s not the policies that are the issue with the GOP, but how “the other side” is portraying them that is hurting Republicans.
“I think it’s not really the policy,” he said. “I think it’s the image of them. I don’t think people have investigated fully the stances from the GOP. The other side, the Democratic side, has successfully distorted our values and the idea behind them.”
Yardley said it’s either the perception of the party’s candidates or the party itself that cost them this year’s election.
“I think the other side has successfully sold us as being rigid, being determined to force our ideas on other people and other ways of life and that just doesn’t exist,” said Yardley. “We haven’t been able to, I guess, counter that.”
Douglas Young, a political science professor at Gainesville State College, said the Democratic side generally has the aid of college students, Hollywood, pop culture and even the media — especially in this year’s election.
“I don’t think the press was this biased in favor (of) President (John F.) Kennedy in 1960,” Young said. “That makes it very, very hard for Republicans to undo all the indoctrination or opinion-forming impact of the left over the last couple decades. I think the left has done a very good job of balkanizing the electorate in terms of getting people to vote for group allegiance.”
But, he said, Romney and his campaign made some mistakes that wound up costing him the election — it wasn’t solely due to his party.
“In the micro sense, Gov. Romney and Paul Ryan made a lot of mistakes,” said Young. “One is that the governor waited way too late to respond to the very negative personal TV attack ads that the Obama campaign unleashed in May, June and July.”
Also, Young said, Romney’s stance in the second and third presidential debates focused too heavily on statistics. In fact, Young said, the Romney camp may have pigeonholed themselves into focusing on the economy.
“I think the Romney people must have figured: ‘Hey, if we just keep making the economy an issue, we can’t lose,’” said Young. “It seemed that Romney just had an almost monomaniacal focus on the economy.”
Future success for the Republican Party, Young said, hinges on its ability to reconnect voters with the “vision of the Founding Fathers.”
“I think they desperately need to talk in big-picture terms,” said Young. “I think if they do that, if they can get folks to think in a more national sense and if they can somehow instill in Americans the fundamental founding values, traditions and principles, I think that’s the best path back to electoral success.”
Obama will continue his presidency without much change in Washington as well. The Republicans still control the House, while the Democrats still hold the majority in the Senate.