CBS News Projects: Four More Years for Obama
Mr. Obama may ultimately fall short of the margin he won by four years ago - roughly seven percentage points nationally - in part because he performed worse among independents. The president won 52 percent to 44 percent among in 2008 independents. This year, the CBS News exit poll showed Romney winning by four points among that group, which made up 30 percent of the electorate.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor whose nomination was driven less by passion than the Republican belief that he represented their best chance for unseating the president, spent much of the campaign relentlessly hammering the president as a failed steward of the economy. But the recovery, while slow, may have been just good enough: The unemployment rate fell - barely - below eight percent, and consumer confidence rose this month to its highest level in nearly 5 years. The exit poll showed that voters were ultimately split on which candidate was better to handle the economy, while the president had a double-digit lead when it came to who was more in touch with people like you.
The Obama campaign spent handsomely early in the race in an attempt to portray the GOP nominee as a heartless plutocrat unconcerned with the plight of the middle class. While Romney's strong performance in the first presidential debate helped to counter that portrayal, the president rebounded in the second and third debates. And while polls showed that Republicans had the edge in voter enthusiasm, the Democrats' robust and sophisticated ground game appears to have given the president an advantage in driving turnout among his base.
For Republicans, this election will prompt soul searching. For the second straight presidential cycle, the GOP nominated a relatively moderate candidate and lost; conservative voices in the party will take the 2012 results as a sign that they need to shift right in 2016. For others, the election will mark an opportunity to push the party to shift gears as their base - white, rural and older voters - shrinks as a portion of the electorate. Contemplating a possible Romney loss before Tuesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he would "go nuts" if he hears complaints it was because Romney wasn't conservative enough.
"We're not losing 95 percent of African-Americans and two-thirds of Hispanics and voters under 30 because we're not being hard-ass enough," he said.
Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, won re-election to the House on Tuesday, and the House Budget Committee chairman is already considered a leading contender for the 2016 presidential nomination. The future for the 65-year-old Romney is unclear: It's hard to imagine he seeks elective office again after falling short in the presidential race. Romney may choose to return to the business world, where he made his fortune before turning to politics.
Mr. Obama will have little time to celebrate his triumph. The lame-duck Congress must now work to keep the nation from going off the "fiscal cliff" at the end of the year - the combination of automatic spending cuts and tax increases that economists say would cause a major drag on the economy.