On November 7, millions of Americans voted to reelect President Obama and the 113th Congress. The results of the elections will have a profound impact on the nation’s future course in both the domestic and foreign policy spheres, and also provide insight into the American electorate. What did Election Day tell us about the issues that influenced voters’ decisions? What do the results tell us about the priorities of the American electorate? What can the nation expect from the next presidential term?
Brookings expert Tom Mann took your questions about the outcomes in a live web chat moderated by Vivyan Tran of POLITICO. Read a transcript of the chat below.
Vivyan Tran: Just a reminder that today’s web chat with Thomas Mann starts at 12:30. Feel free to start submitting questions.
12:29 Comment from J. Atkinson: So Nate Silver was right. Can you foresee a future where elections are so accurately predicted there’s little left to surprise us on election night?
12:35 Thomas Mann: Nate Silver provides a very useful compilation of national and state polls in a broader statistical model that provides an unbiased reading of where the race stands during the course of the campaign. It actually should reduce all the hype about individual polls and permits journalists to provide less punditry and more reporting and analysis of the states of the election and what is likely to happen after the results are in under difference scenarios. Cheers to Nate and to Mark and his team at pollster.com.
12:35 Comment from Ben: Given that this was one of the most expensive elections in history, do you think that SuperPACs actually had a real affect?
12:38 Thomas Mann: There must be a lot of donors’ remorse among those recruited by Karl Rove and his colleagues to pony up big bucks for the campaign. Seldom has so much been spent for so little. Maybe this experience will reduce the demand for Super PACs but I doubt it. Many serious problems of access and influence remain.
12:38 Comment from ByungWoo Bae: What is the most urgent priority of President Obama’s second term?
12:40 Thomas Mann: He has already identified his first priority: to deal with the fiscal cliff and the need to reduce deficits and stabilize debt by adopting a balanced program of tax increases and spending cuts.
12:40 Comment from Justin: What should we expect of Mitt Romney now? What do you think his plans will be?
12:41 Thomas Mann: I suspect his life in politics is over, at least in elective politics. He is an intelligent man and will find much to occupy his interest and attention in the years ahead.
12:42 Comment from Ally: Obama won the Hispanic vote by a wider margin than in 2008, and kept Florida, New Mexico and Colorado blue. Given that Hispanics are the largest demographic active on immigration issues, do you think this will push Congress to further reform immigration policy in the next four years?
12:44 Thomas Mann: Yes I do. Republicans must realize they will fall into long-term minority status unless they begin to fashion policies that appeal to the growing nonwhite population. Obama is committed to introducing comprehensive immigration reform and prospects for its passage have improved.
12:44 Comment from Helena Mader (Brazil): Does the Republican Party need to reshape its message, review its values in order to communicate better to certain demographic groups? – What does the near future hold for Mitt Romney? – May more conservative tendencies, such as the Tea Party, find fertile ground to dominate Republican policy making?
12:47 Thomas Mann: Communication is not their problem. A fixation on cutting taxes under any circumstances, limiting government, and resisting the interests of major segments of the electorate must give way to a more tolerant and problem-solving orientation. As the economy improves, the Tea Party will fade in importance within the GOP.
12:47 Comment from Letisha: Is it at all worrisome that Obama won with less electoral votes and popular support than in 2008?
12:49 Thomas Mann: No. It is amazing that he did as well as he has, winning all of the swing states except for North Carolina, amassing 332 electoral votes, seeing his party actually gain seats in the Senate, all in the context of a deeply polarized party and a very difficult economic recovery. In 2008 he was the challenger during an economic crisis opposing a very unpopular president.
12:49 Comment from Abigail: Can either party claim any kind of mandate from last night’s results? If not, is there any likelihood of movement in Congress on crucial issues, like the fiscal cliff?
12:54 Thomas Mann: Mandates are not meaningful in the context of deep partisan polarization. Obama and the Democrats won a significant victory in 2008 but it won them no support at all among Republicans in Congress. The politics of dealing with the fiscal cliff and deficit/debt problems are difficult but manageable. But don’t look to the public to provide the energy in Washington. The voters have done their job by returning Obama for a second term and punishing the Republicans for their reckless obstruction.
12:54 Comment from Marcus: Does this election change anything? Will gridlock get better?
12:57 Thomas Mann: No consensus between the parties is in sight after the election and polarization been exacerbated, not diminished. Nonetheless, the President has some opportunities for breaking through the gridlock, partly because of his new negotiating advantage with the expiration of tax cuts, partly because some Senate Republicans are tired of simply obstructing whatever the president proposes.
12:57 Comment from Marcus: Do you think the Obama administration will become more aggressive in changing the outcome without re-election fears?
12:59 Thomas Mann: I think more aggressiveness in the 112th Congress would not have made any difference. The situation now calls for both engagement and confrontation with Congress. I think Obama will not shrink from playing hardball when it might serve a constructive purpose.
12:59 Comment from James: Do you think that bipartisan cooperation will improve or worsen under the new administration?
1:01 Thomas Mann: If bipartisanship means both parties working cooperatively, don’t expect it. But I think there is a possibility of some Republicans in the Senate and House being pulling into construction negotiations.
1:01 Vivyan Tran: Thanks for the questions everyone, see you next week.
Results of the 2012 Elections: A Live Web Chat with Thomas Mann
12:30 pm - 1:00 pm
On November 7, millions of Americans voted to reelect President Obama and the 113th Congress. The results of the elections will have a profound impact on the nation’s future course in both the domestic and foreign policy spheres, and also provide insight into the American electorate. Brookings expert Tom Mann took your questions about the outcomes in a live web chat moderated by Vivyan Tran of POLITICO.