x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

US melting pot of voters delivers victory

Obama's re-election rode the inexorable demographic shifts in the US and revealed the inability of the right-wing Republican party to capitalise on them.

People celebrate as they watch US President Barack Obama's acceptance speech broadcast live in Times Square following his re-election.  Andrew Kelly / Reuters
People celebrate as they watch US President Barack Obama's acceptance speech broadcast live in Times Square following his re-election. Andrew Kelly / Reuters

CINCINNATI, OHIO // When Barack Obama's picture and the word "re-elected" flashed on television screens at Cincy's bar in downtown Cincinnati well before midnight on Tuesday, there was silence. Then an eruption.

As people broke into a chant of "four more years!", Jimmie Link, a white steelworker, and Renee Baker, an African-American chemical plant manager, embraced in a long, spontaneous hug, with tears in their eyes.

"I don't know you," Mr Link said. "But congratulations."

Their embrace reflected the coalition of minorities, women, young people and, in Ohio at least, the white working class, which Mr Obama's vast ground campaign over the past two years brought together, culminating in victory over the Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.

His re-election, in large part, rode the inexorable demographic shifts in the United States and revealed the inability of the increasingly right-wing Republican party to capitalise on them.

"We are truly a melting pot now," Ms Baker said. "And they don't know how to accept it."

Mr Obama won 93 per cent of the African-American vote, 71 per cent of Latinos, and 73 per cent of Asians, according to a CBS News poll.

To underscore where Mr Romney's camp missed out, support for the Republican presidential candidate has declined from 40 per cent of Latino voters in 2004 to 21 per cent in Tuesday's election. Observers cited Mr Romney's rightward move on immigration reform and his call for illegal immigrants to "self deport" as a factor in his poor showing among Latinos.

Mr Obama won only 39 per cent of the white vote nationally, and an even lower percentage among white men, but in Ohio he won the white vote by three percentage points.

Many here pointed to Mr Obama's bailout plan for the automobile industry - the largest employer in Ohio - and Mr Romney's opposition to it as the most important factor in the aberration in white support in Ohio. Unemployment rates are below the national average here largely because of the bailout.

The Obama campaign was also able to successfully paint Mr Romney as a buyout specialist who moved manufacturing jobs overseas.

"Mitt Romney's whole history is putting our people out of work," Mr Link, a union member, said of the man who headed Bain Capital, a private equity investment firm accused of helping ship US jobs overseas.

"He wasn't going to turn the country around."

He added that Mr Obama's recent tariffs on Chinese-made tyres likely saved him his job.

In the face of the historic amount of money spent by Republican supporters on advertisements, the Obama campaign deployed a laser-focused ground strategy to produce a higher supporter turnout.

"Obama's victories in key swing states resulted from a superior ground-game that ratcheted up turnout among core Democratic constituencies, whereas Romney never could build any intensity among core GOP groups," said Mark Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University in Virginia.

Using an unprecedented volume of detailed voter data culled from market research, social media and other sources, the Obama campaign pinpointed households - rather than whole neighbourhoods - to target visits by volunteers who had tailored their pitches according to the individual's data.

"When you have working people stand up," Mr Link said outside Cincy's, as cars full of Obama supporters rolled by slowly. "We showed the world that you cannot buy an election in the United States of America."

Throughout the election campaign, Mr Romney, with his right-wing views on social issues such as gay marriage and abortion, remained out of touch with young Americans. Mr Romney lost among those under 30 by just over five million votes. Among 30-39 year olds, Mr Obama did even better than in his 2008 victory over John McCain, winning them by over 13 per cent this year.

Nathan Adams, a former US marine who works as a carpenter in Cincinnati, sat near the bar, watching Mr Romney deliver his concession speech . "It's how extreme they are," he said. "That's what hurt them."

tkhan@thenational.ae