The 2012 Election

Updated August 5, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

Voters Give Obama Four More Years

by Jennie Wood
Tammy Baldwin

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On Nov. 6, 2012, President Obama was re-elected, narrowly defeating Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Obama prevailed in both the electoral college (303 to 206) and the popular vote (50% to 48%), buoyed largely by taking several crucial battle states, including Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Shortly before 1 a.m., Romney delivered his concession speech. "This is a time of great challenges for America, and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation," he said. "The nation, as you know, is at a critical point. At a time like this, we cannot risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people's work. And we citizens also have to rise to the occasion."

Democrats Keep Control of the Senate

Democrats remained in control of the Senate. The party took Republican-held Senate seats in Massachusetts and Indiana. The Democrats narrowly avoided defeat in Missouri. Even with races in North Dakota, Nevada, Montana still too close to call, it became clear on election night that the Democrats would hold their Senate majority and possibly add to it. The night ended with the Democrats having 53 seats to 45 for the Republicans.

Key victories for the Democrats included Tammy Baldwin's win in Wisconsin. Her victory made her the first openly gay candidate to capture a seat in the Senate. She defeated former Republican governor Tommy Thompson. In Massachusetts, Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren defeated Republican Scott P. Brown. Brown received national attention back in January 2010 when he won a special election to succeed Ted Kennedy. In Indiana, a state that usually leans heavily toward Republicans, Democrat Joe Donnelly took a Senate seat, beating State Treasurer Richard Mourdock. Mourdock had recently been in the news for saying that conception by rape was God's will. Representative Todd Akin of Missouri also attracted attention during his campaign when he said women who were victims of "legitimate rape" would not get pregnant because the woman's body "has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." He lost the race to incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill, who was considered vulnerable before the comment.

The House Still Belongs to the Republicans

As predicted, the Republicans retained their majority in the House of Representatives with 232 seats to 191 for the Democrats. Democrats made some gains, most notably in Illinois where they took four seats from Republicans. In Utah, Democrat Jim Matheson kept his seat by less than 3,000 votes. He beat Republican Mia Love who was well-funded and received national attention during the campaign.

Republicans used decennial redistricting to their advantage, a process in which Congressional districts are redrawn after the national Census. Republicans were able to do this because of their domination of some state legislatures. They reformed district lines to include specific populations in order to give their candidates the best chance at winning. In North Carolina, where Republicans went to great lengths with redistricting, Republican George Holding easily won the seat vacated by retired Democrat Brad Miller. Also in North Carolina, longtime Democratic Representative Larry Kissell lost to Republican Richard Hudson. Before this election, Kissell had defeated many Republicans in past elections.

What the 2012 Election Means

Since Democrats still control the Senate and Republicans the House, partisan gridlock will likely continue until the 2014 general election. Obama's re-election will help keep his policies, like the health care act, intact, however. The re-election also gave Obama another chance to find a way to work with a divided Congress.

In his 2012 election night acceptance speech, Obama said, "Tonight in this election, you, the American people, reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back. We know in our hearts that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come."

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