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US election: How women and ethnic voters beat Republican big business

  • by RICHARD LUSCOMBE
 

Some say it was the Hispanic vote that swept Barack Obama back into the White House. Others insist it was the support of African-Americans, women, younger voters or even working-class white men in the industrial heartlands.

But however the numbers of his successful re-election bid are crunched, it is clear the president received a lot of support from some unexpected places in Tuesday’s US general election on his way to an ultimately convincing defeat of the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney.

Of the nine key battleground states in play, Mr Obama won seven of them, with Florida still counting its votes yesterday.

Mr Romney entered polling day with high hopes of winning Virginia and Pennsylvania, then breaching the president’s so-called Midwest firewall of Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin, but in the end got only North Carolina from his shopping list of Democratic-leaning states.

It was, in the view of Slate magazine’s political analyst, John Dickerson, “a string of precise narrow victories” for Mr Obama.

“He didn’t crush it,” he said. “He didn’t win because his leadership during Hurricane Sandy blew all those swing votes his way, though it may have helped.

“The president won because he ran a permanent campaign, keeping his offices open in the battleground states from his 2008 campaign, tending his
coalition assiduously, and because he relentlessly defined his opponent. His was the better campaign. The Democratic candidate of ‘hope and change’ beat the big-business Republican in the trenches, in one state after
another.”

Mr Romney, the former Massachusetts governor watching the drama unfold from his campaign headquarters at the Boston Convention Centre, knew he was in trouble from the
moment the exit polls started reporting voting trends in several east coast swing states.

In Pennsylvania, where he had spent significant time courting last-minute votes, eight out of ten Hispanics backed Mr Obama. In Florida, the president’s share of the Latino vote increased from 57 per cent four years ago to 60 per cent. In Nevada and Colorado, two more states on the Republican hit-list, the
pattern was repeated.

Nationally, almost three out of four Hispanic voters backed the incumbent, a record according to the Latino Decisions website. It said they were encouraged by the president’s declaration in June that children brought into the US as illegal immigrants would no longer be subject to automatic deportation.

“We’ve been talking about this all year, that Obama had high support among Latinos, especially in key states, but tonight it came to fruition,” said Matt Barreto, the site’s co-founder.

In the industrial heartland states of Michigan and Ohio, where Mr Romney had expected to pick up much support, the mostly white working-class
voters turned the other way. Mr Obama’s strong campaign message that his administration’s
$85 billion (£53.1bn) bail-out had saved the motor industry and a million jobs, was rewarded with high levels of support.

Surprisingly, the president managed to keep Mr Romney’s advantage to less than 10 per cent among white males in Ohio, denying his rival the full support of a key voting bloc that could have secured him the country’s ultimate swing state.

No Republican has ever won the White House without Ohio, which has backed every winning presidential candidate for half a century, and Mr Obama carried it with more than 50 per cent of the popular vote.

Riding what the San Francisco Chronicle called a “demographic tidal wave” on his way past the 270 Electoral College votes he needed for re-election, the president once again saw black voters rally for him. Mr Romney won just 1 per cent of the African American vote in Florida and
3 per cent in Ohio and Virginia.

As in 2008, Mr Obama won the youth vote, with exit polls revealing that 59 per cent of voters under 30 had backed him, to 37 per cent for Mr Romney. Women voters, too, put off by Mr Romney’s strongly anti-abortion stance, deserted the Republicans in droves, supporting Mr Obama by 55 to 44 per cent.

Yet men, by contrast, were convincingly in favour of Mr Romney’s policies – 52 per cent to the president’s 45 per cent.

 

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