While President Barack Obama cruised to victory on Tuesday (Nov. 6), winning or leading in every battleground state and besting Mitt Romney in the popular vote, the odds didn’t seem to be in the president’s favor when campaigning began, says Tulane political scientist Celeste Lay.
U.S. President Barack Obama walks on stage with first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia to deliver his victory speech on election night in Chicago. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
“The narrative at the beginning was that this was a very beatable president,” says Lay
, an assistant professor of political science. “The variables were all against Obama. Attitudes about the economy, voters’ opinions about whether the country is on the right-track, had all been in Romney’s favor.”
Given those factors, Lay considers the Obama campaign “very successful” and one that will be “studied for years to come.” She says that campaign rallied a similar coalition of voters that led to Obama’s election in 2008 — the young, single women and racial minorities.
Lay says she was not surprised by Obama’s reelection because the polls in the battleground states were showing the president with a lead over the last month. However, she says her expectation of a second Obama term based on that polling data certainly was not shared universally.
“I think there were a lot of surprised conservatives,” Lay says. “I think a lot of people bought into this narrative that all these media pollsters are liberal and biased, and all the polls are wrong due to that bias.”
While the Electoral College votes show a fairly lopsided victory, Lay cautions against buying into any assertion that this is an indication of a mandate for the Obama administration.
“The polls indicate that people are frustrated about the gridlock,” Lay says. “So if there’s a mandate for anything, maybe it’s that Americans want more compromising and not an extreme right-wing or extreme left-wing policy trajectory. Exit polls show Americans evenly divided about many issues, including the appropriate role of government. People seem to want moderate, middle-of-the-road compromise from both sides.”