The 2012 US presidential election saw the incumbent Barack Obama – the Democratic nominee – take on the Republican Mitt Romney, with Obama emerging victorious to secure his second term in office. Held on Tuesday 6 November 2012, it was the 57th presidential election in the history of the United States and there was a turnout of 58.2 per cent of eligible voters.
Obama had been inaugurated as President in January 2009 after he defeated George W Bush’s successor John McCain in the election
two months earlier. As the reigning head of state, Obama received no real competition as he secured the Democratic nomination for the 2012 election, with Vice President Joe Biden named as his running mate.
The Republicans, on the other hand, were more divided when it came to choosing their leader. Eventually Romney saw off challenges from various notable figures in the party, including former Libertarian nominee Ron Paul and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.
Key policy areas
With the national and global economy still in a fragile condition following the onset of a worldwide recession in 2008, economic issues dominated much of the electoral campaign. There had been signs of recovery, but for many this was frustratingly slow and therefore policies for stimulating business and boosting jobs remained very high on the agenda.
Obama continued similar policies to those he had laid out when he was first elected; he focused on high taxation of the wealthy, closing tax loopholes and modest budget cuts, notably not to welfare. The more conservative Romney set out a stall of lower taxes to trigger more consumer purchasing, closing tax loopholes and far greater budget cuts – much of this came from the budget plans of his running mate Paul Ryan.
One of the defining features of Obama’s first term, which rolled into his second, was on healthcare reforms. In the 2012 elections, ‘Obamacare’ – officially known as the Affordable Care Act, which looked to increase healthcare insurance coverage – remained the Democrats’ policy. Romney opted for the line “repeal and replace”, but in reality the two were very close in their policies in this space, something that favoured Obama as it had been one of the most heavily criticised areas of his time in office.
As he had been four years earlier, Obama said he would cut defence budgets in his 2012 presidential campaign. Despite withdrawing forces and funds from the Middle East, the fact Obama had closely overseen the mission that killed Osama bin Laden made him popular in this area. Romney meanwhile stressed the importance of traditional alliances with Britain and Israel, while Obama looked to strengthen alliances with East Asia.
On a social front, Obama aligned himself with liberals – he called for same sex marriages and also accused Republicans as fronting a 'War on Women'. He also said he would stop immigrants who were born in the US being deported. This helped to mobilise the younger demographic and also cemented the support of the LGBT community.
The more traditionalist approach of Romney meant that he remained in favour of state-level restrictions on the age of abortion and marriage. He also called Obama’s move to slacken immigration an abuse of executive power.
In the build-up to the election it was feared that Obama might be pushed close following a series of difficulties during his first term combined with the fact that the economy was still struggling. However, the results of the 2012 presidential election
proved to be far more comprehensive; Obama and the Democrats secured a convincing victory, winning both the popular and electoral vote with 332 electoral votes compared to Romney’s 206.
The 2012 presidential election was also the first since 1944 in which neither of the major candidates had any military experience. Obama was also the first to secure at least 51 per cent of the popular vote in two elections since Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956. Romney, meanwhile, became the first candidate to lose their home seat since Al Gore lost the state of Texas to Republican George W Bush in 2000, although Romney lost by 23 per cent, the worst margin since John Fremont in 1856.