Barack Obama edges out Romney in Electoral College, popular vote
No matter which party you identify most strongly with, Tuesday night was a rollercoaster ride of emotions and expectations.
When the polls opened early Tuesday morning for the 2012 federal elections, pundits on both sides of the political spectrum were expecting a tight race with Democratic incumbent Barack Obama winning the swing states and eventually carrying the night.
Their predictions came true: after an extremely tight race that had Republican candidate Mitt Romney holding the popular vote for almost the entire night, Barack Obama won the 270 Electoral College votes required to secure the presidency.
Indeed, the focus that night was almost more on the Electoral College than on the individual candidates. A candidate must win more than half of the 538 electoral votes in order to carry the office. Since most states have a “winner-take-all” policy, meaning that the winner of the popular vote in a state takes all of the state’s electoral votes, there is the potential for a situation in which the winner of the national popular vote loses the election based on the Electoral College.
For example, if candidate A wins lots of low-population states, which have very few electoral votes, and candidate B wins only a few high-population states, which have quite a lot of electoral votes, candidate B would win the electoral vote — and therefore the presidency. The way the electoral votes are stacked, candidate B only needs to take 25 percent of the states in order to win. It has happened this way four times in American history, most recently in 2004.
Understandably, then, Republicans and Democrats alike watched Tuesday’s election tickers with baited breath. For several hours, Romney held the advantage in both electoral votes and popular votes, having won the large eastern states of Georgia and North Carolina. When Obama’s electoral victory was reached and announced Wednesday morning shortly after midnight Eastern time, Romney was still leading by several million in the popular vote.
Obama’s popular lead soon ticked up, though, with Wednesday’s estimate holding him at just over 60 million votes, or 50.4 percent of the votes, and 303 electoral votes. Mitt Romney won approximately 57.5 million votes, 48.1 percent of the votes, and 206 electoral votes. (Numbers as of Wednesday night.)
Calvin College was not immune to the political buzz, with many students heading to the polls, hosting election parties, and watching the numbers roll in with varying degrees of interest.
However, politically active Calvin students are not necessarily representative of the nation: according to the Huffington Post, voters aged 18-30 made up only 19 percent of all voters in this election, a mere one point higher than in 2008. Of this 19 percent, 60 percent voted for Obama, down almost ten points from 2008.
Two themes common among many of these young voters, particularly those here at Calvin, are the flagging economy and political polarization in Congress and culture. Both of these issues are ones that we as members of the next generation will have to grapple with as we come into our own.
Sophomore Maggie Ferntheil of California did not vote for Obama for just this reason: “I felt that there has not been enough [economic] growth in the past four years,” she says. “Lately it has felt like we are not making any progress.”
She adds that “it is my responsibility [as a member of society] to not spend more money than I make. The government should follow the same rules.”
Senior Julia Hawkins of Michigan agrees that the problem is real: “My primary concern for the next four years is that we lower the national debt. It is outrageous to have that many zeroes behind a number.”
Indeed, the economy has been the main issue throughout the election, with Romney campaigning on a policy of reducing government spending and cutting taxes in order to stimulate the markets. Analysts agree that from 2008 to 2012, the GDP grew at a slower rate than from 1936 to 1940, when the nation was wracked by economic depression and a world war.
But political posturing isn’t the way to solve the problem, Calvin students would seem to agree. Junior Benjamin Wood of Massachusetts points out that four high-profile Congressional moderates lost their seats on Tuesday. “Discussions of the fiscal cliff, for example, can only become more acrimonious and less substantial given this climate,” he says, referring to the fact that severe government cuts and tax increases are scheduled to go into effect on Dec. 31, 2012.
Michigan junior Ryan Struyk also sees rough waters ahead for Congress.
“Since the GOP was elected to the House in 2010,” he notes, “the federal government has been at a stalemate. It will be interesting to see whether that continues or whether both sides are willing to come to the table.”
Indeed, Tuesday’s elections gave the Senate majority to the Democratic Party, while the House of Representatives remains in Republican hands. Struyk predicts that President Obama’s hands are tied, as would Romney’s have been had he been elected.
“With a divided Congress, whoever got elected was going to have a very hard time pushing their agenda through both houses.”
However, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
“Now that congressional Republicans can no longer say their goal is ‘to deny President Obama a second term,’ I am optimistic some compromises can be reached,” Wood says hopefully.
Now that the elections are over for now, what is left is for the Republican Party is to take a closer look at its platform. Struyk, like many young voters, realizes that Obama was able to more effectively appeal to Latino and female voters than Romney.
“The demographics of America are shifting,” he says, “and the Republican Party will need to adjust to meet those demographics if they want to win back the White House.”
Either way, Hawkins hopes the parties will move back towards moderation.
“This would allow for voters to not vote against extremist views,” she says, “but to vote for the ideals they support.”