The dust has cleared, the votes have been counted, and Barack Obama stands victorious. What did we learn? What did this entire long election drama mean? Politico and CNN break down some takeaways from the big night:
- Team Romney was bluffing. Romney's campaign said it had a chance in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Michigan, but it turned out to be smoke and mirrors: It had no real ground game in any of them, and the tallies of voter contacts it presented to the press included unanswered phone calls and door knocks.
- The youth vote is here to stay. The big youth turnout in 2008 wasn't a fluke. Voters aged 18 to 29 made up 19% of the electorate this year, inching up from 18% in 2008 and 17% in 2004.
- Republicans might want to avoid abortion. Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock both lost winnable races, helping to keep the Senate in Democrats' hands thanks largely to their controversial abortion-related comments.
- Labor isn't dead yet. And last night, it went for a walk, helping Obama win Nevada, Wisconsin, and Ohio. Speaking of Ohio…
- The auto bailout mattered. Nearly 60% of Ohio voters said they approved of the government's handling of the bailout, and exit polls show that Obama won three-quarters of those voters.
- Paul Ryan didn't. Unlike Sarah Palin, Ryan didn't wrap the race around him. He emerges more or less unscathed, having neither particularly hurt nor particularly helped Romney's chances. And, one strategist tells the Daily Beast, he's "immediately on shortlists for 2016."
- Republicans have a serious Latino problem. Latinos expanded their share of the vote to 10%, and 71% of them broke for Obama, up from 67% in 2008. That trend that could eventually put Arizona and Texas in play. For more on GOP demographic woes, click here.
- Bush still haunts Republicans. Exit polls show that the majority of voters still blame Dubya for the weak economy.
- The big donor model didn't work. The Romney camp prided itself on its efficient fundraising strategy—it focused more or less exclusively on big donors—but it forced him to spend too much time at donor retreats, and left him more or less broke by August.
(Read more Election 2012