In a lightly attended joint session of Congress last Friday (Jan. 4) that lasted less than 30 minutes, Barack Obama was officially reelected president of the United States for another four-year term. The reading of the certified electoral vote as cast in the 50 states and the District of Columbia in mid-December revealed the tally unchanged from Election Night, with 332 votes for Democrat Obama (and Vice President Joe Biden) and 206 for Republican Mitt Romney (and his running mate, Paul Ryan). For the second straight election, there were no “faithless electors” breaking ranks to cast their ballot for a person other than their party’s presidential candidate (or to leave their ballot blank).
After an era of presidential elections often defined by landslide results, the nation over the last dozen years has entered a period of close contests for the White House. The 2012 voting is the third in the last four to be decided in the popular vote by a margin of less than 5 percentage points. Yet only four states were decided this year by a margin so small.
Twice in the last eight years a president has been re-elected. And as votes continue to trickle in, it is becoming clearer and clearer that Barack Obama’s victory margin will be a bit wider than George W. Bush’s in 2004.
There is little dispute that Republican Mitt Romney “won” his first presidential debate with President Barack Obama Wednesday night in Denver. He was animated while Obama appeared flat. He was aggressive while Obama often seemed hesitant. He was cogent while the president all too often fumbled for words.
A personal story… My first political memory goes back to 1956. Our family had just acquired its first television set – in black and white, in those days. And the first event of consequence that year was the Democratic convention. Adlai Stevenson was nominated for president in short order. But then things got interesting. Rather than select his own running mate, Stevenson left the choice to the delegates. The scene was both electric and chaotic as Sens. Estes Kefauver of Tennessee and John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts quickly emerged as the major contenders. The band blared, banners were waved, and the numbers changed constantly on the screen as each state cast its vote. Kefauver achieved the needed delegate majority after the second ballot… and I could see my future, following conventions in particular and the electoral process in general.