After more than a year of campaigning, record spending of more than $6 billion, debates, primaries, dishonest TV ads, Super PACs, embarrassing gaffes, and an enormous amount of useless speculation, 2012 has produced a status quo election.
There has been little change in the political alignment, given the results of Tuesday’s election, which means that bipartisan compromise will be the only way to get things done in Washington. But since a lot of Republicans still don’t have the word “compromise” in their vocabularies, don’t be surprised to see continued gridlock.
President Barack Obama defeated Republican challenger Mitt Romney by a popular vote margin of 60,811,084 (50.4 percent) to 57,918,742 (48 percent) and an Electoral College margin of 303-206, with Florida (29 electoral votes) still not determined and Obama in the lead there. Obama’s popular and Electoral College victory margins were less than he had in 2008, but still decisive. In Michigan, where Romney grew up, Obama became the sixth straight Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state, winning by nine points, 2,560,015 (54 percent) to 2,111,139 (45 percent).
Romney also lost Massachusetts, where he served as governor, as well as Wisconsin, home of his running mate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan. No member of the Romney family has won a major statewide election in Michigan since 1966, when Mitt Romney’s father, George Romney, was elected to his third term as governor.
The Democrats gained two seats in the Senate, increasing their majority to 55-45, which includes two independents. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) already caucuses with the Democrats, and Maine’s newly elected independent senator, Angus King, is also expected to join the Democratic caucus. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) was easily elected to a third term over her Republican challenger, former U.S. Rep, Peter Hoekstra, by 2,731,094 (59 percent) to 1,764,107 (38 percent).
The Republicans kept their majority in the House of Representatives. It was 242-193 going into the election. With nine races still not called, Republicans have won 233 seats and Democrats 193, a net gain of three so far. In Michigan, a Republican gerrymander paid off, with the Republicans winning nine of the state’s 14 House seats, a net loss of one seat for the Democrats. The closest race was in the 1st District, comprising the Upper Peninsula and the northern tip of the Lower Peninsula. In a rematch from 2010, Republican incumbent Dan Benishek edged former Democratic state Rep. Gary McDowell by 166,902 (48 percent) to 164,580 (47 percent).
The only seriously contested Detroit area House race was in the 11th District, in southern Oakland and northwest Wayne counties, with the seat open after former U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter was kicked off the Aug. 7 primary ballot due to fraudulent nominating petition signatures. McCotter subsequently resigned, causing a special election to be held Nov. 6 in the district as constituted prior to redistricting to fill the remaining six weeks of his unexpired term. Republican Kerry Bentivolio, a Tea Party extremist, reindeer rancher and former teacher, defeated Democrat Syed Taj, a physician and Canton Township trustee, for the full term by 181,796 (51 percent) to 158,884 (44 percent). But in the special election, held in the somewhat more Democratic old 11th District, Democrat David Curson, a UAW staffer and Vietnam veteran, edged out Bentivolio by 159,267 (48 percent) to 151,740 (46 percent). Curson will now serve one of the shortest terms in the history of Congress.
In similar status quo results at the state level, Democrats gained five seats in the Michigan House, but Republicans still hold a 59-51 majority, and Republicans kept their 4-3 majority on the Michigan Supreme Court, with Democrat Bridget McCormack replacing retiring Justice Marilyn Kelly, a fellow Democrat.
One certain result of the election is that health care reform is here to stay, on track for full implementation in 2014. The Republican House passed 33 bills to repeal it, all of which died in the Senate. But the question for the upcoming lame duck session is whether the two parties can work out a budget agreement to head off the Budget Control Act of 2011, under which all the Bush-era tax cuts expire, and there are $55 billion cuts each in domestic and military spending. Dubbed the “fiscal cliff,” no one is happy about it, and it could cause a new recession. But the big question is whether the Republicans, whose top priority over the last four years was to deny Obama a second term, will agree to raise taxes on the rich as part of a deal.
For now, the rest of us can relax. We will no longer be bombarded by obnoxious, negative and lying TV ads; our mailboxes won’t be overflowing with campaign fliers lacking credibility; and our telephones won’t be blasted by irritating robocalls. The election is over. Let’s move forward.