1st Black President Wins a 2nd Term

Here's who gave it to President Obama, and what he might do with it.

The Obamas (Getty Images)
The Obamas (Getty Images)

(The Root) — Four years after making history by becoming the first black president elected in the United States, Barack Obama has been elected to a second term. Bolstered by wins in key swing states, among them Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania, the president was declared the winner by multiple news outlets just after 11 p.m. EST. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney took the stage to concede the race shortly after midnight.

Some Obama supporters feared that newly enacted strict voter-identification laws, and the controversy surrounding them, might suppress key segments of the president’s base of support — namely young people and voters of color — and tip a close race in the direction of Republican challenger Mitt Romney. That did not happen.

The Voters Who Made the Difference

In fact, the election’s outcome has led some to speculate that voter-identification laws did affect turnout among minority voters — just not in the way that proponents of such measures might have anticipated. John Avlon, a columnist for Newsweek and the Daily Beast, speculated on Daily Beast TV that such measures may have sparked a backlash among voters of color who felt targeted and turned out in record numbers in response. An analysis of exit polls by the Wall Street Journal found that with declining support among white voters, the president would need nearly record turnout among black voters to carry the state of Virginia again after doing so four years ago. He did.

Cornell Belcher, an Obama campaign pollster, told The Root that the president’s win came down to three key components: minority voters, youth voters and the gender gap — specifically, how well the president did with female voters. According to CNN, the president bested Romney among women voters nationally by a margin of 55 percent to 43 percent.

Echoing Belcher’s analysis, David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, told The Root that Latino voters and younger voters were essential to delivering the president a second term. In an election night interview with The Root, Valeisha Butterfield-Jones, the Obama campaign’s national youth-vote director, credited younger voters with making the difference in key swing states, including Virginia and Ohio.

“Tonight has been historic due in large part to youth turnout. Young people spoke loud and clear. Young people made a critical difference,” she said. While Butterfield-Jones credited young voters for delivering at the polls, she noted that young Obama-campaign volunteers were crucial for delivering in the weeks, months and year leading up to Election Day. Celebrity surrogates like Kerry Washington certainly helped fire up crowds, supporters and young people on the trail, but Butterfield-Jones said that what ultimately won the election was “our grassroots operation, which made a critical difference and started with young volunteers a year ago. Our ground game got young people motivated again.”

Seeing the fervor among these young volunteers convinced Butterfield-Jones that media speculation about an “enthusiasm gap” among young Obama supporters that was expected to cost him this election cycle was not accurate. The election results appear to vindicate her perspective.