President Barack Obama has been re-elected as U.S. president for a second term, defeating the Republican challenger, Governor Mitt Romney.
The candidates needed 270 electoral votes to win in the campaign. Obama currently sits with 303 votes to Romney’s 206 at 6pm EST in Australia.
In what was the most expensive presidential campaign in history, with around $2 billion spent on advertising and attack ads, the Democrats’ celebrations have begun and Republicans are looking at who to blame for the defeat. Here’s a look back at the campaign trail.
Mitt Romney’s lowest point came as his Republican Convention performance coincided with the release of a secretly taped video recording. The footage showed Romney telling a room full of fundraisers that 47 per cent of American voters were dependent on government handouts and would never vote for him.
“So my job is not to worry about these people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” he told the $50,000-a-plate donors.
After the release of the infamous “47 per cent” video tape, Obama jumped to a 3 point lead in most national polls and in the all-important battleground state that no Republican president has ever lost, Ohio, Obama led Romney 49 per cent to 42 per cent.
Unsurprisingly, Romney’s gaffe gained criticism from his Republican supporters. David Brooks, a New York Times conservative commentator said:
“Who are these freeloaders? Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the Department of Veterans Affairs? Is it the student getting a loan to go to college? Is it the retiree on social security or Medicare? … The people who receive the disproportionate share of government spending are not big government lovers. They are Republicans.”
The polls remained fairly consistent until the three presidential debates.
Obama appeared tired and listless in the first domestic policy debate in Denver while many pundits commented that Romney appeared “presidential”. Chris Mathews of MSNBC (a fervent Obama supporter), was livid as he summed up the Democrats’ mood post-debate: “Surely there was no Bobby Kennedy in the green room before Barack Obama came out tonight. I don’t know what he was doing, he had his head down… he was enduring the debate rather than fighting it.”
The comedic highlight of the first debate was the introduction of Sesame Street character, Big Bird, to the world of US politics, when Mr Romney said he would cut federal funding to the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), the home of Sesame Street.
“I like PBS, I love Big Bird,” Romney said during the debate, “But I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay (for them).”
The polls tightened before the second debate.
The debate in New York became heated when Romney accused the Obama administration of misleading Americans about the murder of four US citizens at the Libyan consulate in Benghazi. “The suggestion that anybody on my team, the Secretary of State, our UN ambassador, anybody on my team, would play politics or mislead, when we’ve lost four of our own, is offensive, governor,” he said.
In a moment that startled Romney, the CNN debate moderator, Candy Crowley, intervened on the issue to clarify that Obama had in fact stated the day after the attacks that it was “an act of terror”.
Romney made a comical gaffe in the second debate when referring “to binders full of women”. When he was governor of Massachusetts, he said, he had sought out qualified women to work in his government: “I went to a number of women’s groups and said, ‘Can you help us find folks?’ and they brought us whole binders full of women.”
His comments were instantly mocked on social media websites such as Twitter with the viral hashtag “#bindersfullofwomen”.
In the third and final debate, which focused on foreign policy, the Republican contender pivoted to the centre, his policies mirroring Obama’s on several issues.
Obama said Romney’s foreign policy strategy had previously been “all over the map”.
“I know you haven’t been in a position to actually execute foreign policy, but every time you’ve offered an opinion you’ve been wrong,” said Obama in the clash at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida.
Romney held the Obama administration’s feet to the fire over problems in Middle East:
“Look at the record of the last 4 years and say is Iran closer to a bomb? Yes. Is the Middle East in tumult? Yes. Is al-Qaeda on the run… on its heels? No. Are Israel and the Palestinians closer to reaching a peace agreement? No, they haven’t talked in 2 years.”
Obama patronised Romney’s comments, made on the campaign trail, about the U.S. Navy shrinking to its smallest size since World War One.
“I think Governor Romney maybe hasn’t spent enough time looking at how our military works. You mentioned the Navy for example, that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets because the nature of our military has changed.” Mr Obama sarcastically added “We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater… nuclear submarines.”
The CNN “snap-poll” had President Obama as the winner of the last debate by eight points. – Luke Quilty
Photograph from @BarackObama