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President Obama Wins Re-Election!

November 7th, 2012

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama celebrating the President's re-election last night. Photo Credit: AP Photo

No doubt you’ve heard by now that President Barack Obama won the presidential election last night!

But did you know that he’s only the fourth Democratic president to win a second term in the last 100 years?

It was a nail biter to watch the votes get tallied up late last night, and while there’s still some counting left to do, President Obama was declared the winner by many news organizations at around 11:20 pm last night.

It all came down to math.

The votes were counted up for each state. Whichever candidate had the most votes in a state was “awarded” the entire state in the final tally. Each state is worth a different number of points. The states with big populations are worth more than the states with smaller ones.

There were 538 “points” to be won in total. President Obama had to win 270 (just one more than half the 538 total) to win the presidency. This way of counting up votes is called the “electoral college”.

To see last night’s electoral college map results from Scholastic, click here .

The other way of adding up the vote is to just count each person’s vote regardless of what state they live in. That’s called the popular vote and that’s tallied too. President Obama won that by a slim margin 50-48% (at last count), but it’s the electoral college vote that really determines who wins.

Most states went predictably to either Mr. Romney or Mr. Obama. But then there were 7 “swing states” where it could have gone either way. And that’s where all the focus was last night — especially on Ohio. Incredible but true, no president from Mr. Romney’s Republican party had ever won the presidency without winning Ohio.

That’s where last night’s election results got really interesting. President Obama and Mitt Romney were pretty much tied in Ohio, and then the experts on TV and in the campaigns estimated that President Obama would win Ohio — and with it the presidency — even though the counting wasn’t over. But the Romney camp wasn’t so sure and waited over an hour before they agreed.

While Mr. Romney was still trying to hold onto Ohio, President Obama won another major swing state, Virginia, and the math definitely pushed President Obama past the 270 electoral college votes he needed. Now there was no way the math could work for Mitt Romney to win, regardless of how many other states he might win.

Mr. Romney then conceded (admitted there was no way to win), and called President Barack Obama to congratulate him. That had to happen before President Obama could make his victory speech, which took place at around 12:30 in the morning. That’s actually not all that late as these things go. You can watch his acceptance speech here.

And you can watch Mitt Romney’s concession speech here.

Ohio did end up being awarded to President Obama. And one other swing state, Florida, is still too close to call, though it won’t affect the outcome of the election at this point. In general though, President Obama swept the swing states.

Amazingly, over $6 billion (with a B!) were spent on this election. That included money spent on elections for another branch of the government, Congress, composed of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

After a close race with very different visions for the country, some people woke up this morning feeling like not much had changed for all that money and energy spent on the campaigns.

President Obama is still the President. The Democratic Party still controls the Senate. And the Republicans still control the House of Representatives.

Many people also feel like the United States of America isn’t that united at the moment.

But it is a good reminder: the huge focus on who would become president of the United States gave the impression that the president has more power than he actually does. Getting anything done, even as president, requires co-operation between the president and Congress — the  Senate and House of Representatives, each of which is controlled by different political parties.

Many are hoping today that while the man who is president hasn’t changed, that perhaps the two parties’ ability to co-operate, and get things done for the American people, will.

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